Canwest revitalized after $2 bil takeover from Shaw

Broadcaster has No. 1 series on Canadian TV: 'Survivor''

TORONTO -- In a surprise turn of fortune, Canuck broadcaster Canwest Global Communications Corp. has the number one series on Canadian TV: “Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains.”

That’s proof Canwest Global is back from the dead after a recent $2 billion takeover bid from cable giant Shaw Communications, a marriage to be consummated when the broadcaster emerges from court-directed creditor protection, likely before the summer is out.

CBS’ “Survivor” secured an average 2.92 million total viewers on Canwest Global’s Global Television network, just ahead of ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” on arch-rival CTV's schedule with 2.89 million viewers, from September 2009 through last Sunday (May 30), according to BBM Canada data.

That tailwind comes as Canwest Global took the wraps off of its fall 2010 season for Global Television on Tuesday in Toronto.

Barbara Williams, senior vp of programming and production at Canwest Global, said her network made fewer purchases at the L.A. Screenings compared to previous studio TV bazaars as it heads into fall 2010 with 16 returning hits, including anchors Fox’s “House” on Monday nights and “Glee” on Tuesdays.

“We were able to be strategic about filling a few key holes,”  Williams said of Global Television's growing bench strength.

Those holes include 10 p.m., where Williams purchased the CBS Studios’ reboot of “Hawaii Five-O” for Mondays at 10 p.m., and from NBC Universal the Jimmy Smits-starrer “Outlaw” for Friday nights at 10 p.m., and the one-hour comedy “Love Bites” at 10 p.m. on Thursdays.

The other big get for Canwest Global was picking up Fox’s mid-season “Ride-a-Long” cop drama for Monday nights at 9 p.m., to fill the hole left on Global Television after Fox canceled “24.”

The Canadian broadcaster also responded during the recent U.S. upfronts when CBS shook up its fall 2010 schedule and shifted “Survivor: Nicaragua” to Wednesdays at 8 p.m. from Thursdays.

That has Global Television airing the “Survivor: Nicaragua” edition Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. this fall, which puts Fox’s Bones” into the Thursday night frying pan of 8 p.m.

Global Television's main competition Thursday nights will come from CTV and its pick-up of CBS' "$#*! My Dad Says" at 8:30 p.m. and returning hits “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy.”

Mirroring stateside TV, Canada’s biggest battleground for primetime audiences and ad dollars remains Thursday nights.

Also, where possible, Canadian broadcasters simulcast or air U.S. network series in the same primetime slots they hold south of the border, to replace American commercials with Canadian ones.

That said, Global Television and rivals CTV and Rogers Media with its Citytv station group are increasingly scheduling U.S. series in their own time, even though simulcasts remain king.

“For any of the Canadian broadcasters, if it works in simulcast, we’re crazy not to follow along,” Williams argues. “But we need to be aware of what works for our (Canadian) audience, and make sure the schedule as a whole works well. It’s an endless balancing act,” she added.

Canada’s simulcast regime, done with the protectionist blessing of the country’s TV regulator, aims to boost the ad revenue of Canuck broadcasters and stave off the label of old media dinosaurs as they increasingly compete for viewers against niche channels and the Internet.

Also, to retain competitiveness, Hollywood supply deals remain key for the Canadians, with Canwest Global continuing to package buy with CBS Studios International TV, Sony Pictures Television International and 20th Century Fox Television Distribution, while CTV volume buys from Warner Bros. International TV and Disney/ABC International Television.

That traditionally leaves NBC Universal product up for grabs, and this year Global Television doubled down on NBC series to continue chasing overall market-topper CTV.

NBC dropped long-time Global Television performer “Heroes,” so Williams picked up “Outlaw” for Friday nights, the “Outsourced” comedy on Thursday nights at 9:30 p.m., followed by “Love Bites” at 10 p.m.

Global Television will also air the returning NBC hit “The Office” on Thursday nights at 9 p.m.

From Fox, whose supply deal with Canwest Global has given it the returning hits “Glee” and “House,” Williams picked up the Texan drama “Lonestar” for Monday nights at 9 p.m. and “Raising Hope,” which awaits a primetime slot.

Returning U.S. shows for Global Television this fall include “Glee” anchoring Tuesday nights at 8 p.m., followed by CBS’ “NCIS: Los Angeles” at 9 p.m. and the female-skewing “The Good Wife” drama at 10 p.m.

Global Television will also go with CBS and Fox simulcasts on Wednesday nights, with “Survivor” at 8 p.m., followed by CBS’ “NCIS” at 9 p.m., and Fox’s  “Lie To Me” in a new slot at 10 p.m.

Elsewhere, CW’s “90210” shifts to Fridays at 8 p.m.

And Saturday nights, Global Television has scheduled a movie double-header to go up against “Hockey Night in Canada" on the CBC network.

And the Fox animated lineup returns Sunday night, led off by the 22nd season of the “The Simpsons” at 8 p.m.

The only new Canadian series for Global Television this season is “Shattered” on Friday nights at 9 p.m., also picked up by ABC, and the rookie series “Ice Pilots” on Sundays at 7 p.m.

Rival Rogers Media will make its pitch to domestic advertisers Wednesday, while CTV will hold its upfront presentation on Thursday.
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