CTV, WBITV ink multiseries streaming pact

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TORONTO -- Canadian broadcaster CTV on Wednesday unveiled a deal with Warner Bros. International Television to stream three dramas, including "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," on its CTV Broadband network.

Toronto-based CTV said that upcoming episodes of NBC's "Studio 60" and Fox's "The O.C." will stream online after their Canadian primetime premieres and that earlier episodes of "Studio 60" and Season 4 of "The O.C." are now available for viewing on the CTV-branded, ad-supported broadband offering.

A pilot run of the first two episodes of the latest season of "The O.C." drew 120,000 online viewings in the last ten days, according to CTV.

As part of the Warner Bros. deal, CTV also will stream the first seven episodes of the heist drama "Smith," which was cancelled after only three episodes aired.

U.S. program suppliers have signed earlier deals to see individual dramas and reality series stream on Canadian broadband offerings, but the Warner Bros. International agreement represents the first multiple series broadband deal.

As part of a separate deal with CBS Paramount International Television, rival Canadian broadcaster Global Television streamed episodes of "Survivor: Cook Islands." And the network became the first Canadian network to stream American content when it made NBC's "Deal or No Deal" part of its broadband library in October.

Each deal to stream American content via Canadian online hubs has been preceded by complicated negotiations with series talent, music labels, publishers and creators.

As in the U.S. market, the Canadian broadband networks are geo-gated to ensure that U.S. series are viewed only through Canadian Internet servers.

Canadian networks, which have long depended on U.S. series to drive ratings and ad revenues, are betting that streaming American content will secure audiences not normally tuned into primetime TV schedules and therefore build audiences for expensive U.S. fare.

In addition, CTV is following the lead of the U.S. networks and allowing Canadian viewers to catch up on episodes they may have missed as well as re-watch scenes they already have viewed on TV.

Kris Faibish, CTV vp of digital media, said the multi-program deal with Warner Bros. is part of an on-going strategy to follow the lead of U.S. networks and broaden the viewership base for prime time series.

 "Disney and NBC and the other networks all have their own broadband channels where they very much leverage a new channel to extend the story behind their programming, whether to reach out to a new audience, or whether to allow people to catch up and get back into the broadcast cycle," Faibish said.

 She added that CTV has to take every precaution necessary to ensure episodes of U.S. dramas it streams on its own broadband network do not end up on YouTube.com and other on-line program aggregators.
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