CTV: We'll Be Number One After Canadian Upfronts

6:00 AM PST 05/26/2011 by Etan Vlessing
Jag Gundu/Getty Images

“The big story next week after all the Upfront presentations are done is not going to be that the number three network bought a lot, but that the number one network got even stronger," says Bell Media topper Kevin Crull.

TORONTO – With their Los Angeles Screenings over, now comes the Canadian Upfronts.

And when the Canucks are done pitching local advertisers on their new U.S. network series, Bell Media prez Kevin Crull insists rival Rogers Media, the big Canadian spender on studio lots last week, will have done little to dig itself out of third place to challenge market leader CTV.

The big story next week after all the Upfront presentations are done is not going to be that the number three network bought a lot, but that the number one network got even stronger,” Crull said.

The reference is to the status of Bell Media’s CTV as the highest-rated Canadian network on the strength of hits like American Idol, The Big Bang Theory and Desperate Housewives.

But Crull, a long-time exec at BCE before the phone giant acquired CTV and rebranded it as Bell Media, also reflects frustration with CTV long painted as the heavy at the Los Angeles Screenings, buying up whatever it could to undercut competitors like Global Television and Rogers Media’s Citytv stations.

Looking for a game changer, Rogers Media emerged as the biggest Canadian buyer at the Los Angeles Screenings last week, filling holes left by fourth-place NBC shows that dominate its primetime schedule.

Also stirring the CTV-Citytv rivalry is Rogers Media now being led by former CTV exec Keith Pelley.

“If 70 percent of your schedule gets cancelled because it stinks, you have to buy a lot,” Crull said of Rogers Media’s stepped-up buying last week.

“Our situation wasn’t like that. We could be really picky,” he added.

Crull, his fellow Canadians and their studio suppliers remain tight-lipped about what they bought at the Screenings ahead of their Upfront presentations, which get underway next week. But Rogers Media is understood to have moved beyond NBC shows to buy rookie series from Warner Bros. Television that usually go to CTV via a supply deal, and 20th Century Fox shows that Global Television traditionally buys as part of another output agreement.

Crull insists CTV programmers for the most part bought the rookie U.S. shows they coveted, and even bought a few more than planned because of the high quality of U.S. network pilots screened.

“On the comedy side, we have some real stars that are coming television. I think that writing is just tremendous. And on the drama side, the production quality is much higher,” Crull said of the U.S. networks’ upcoming 2011 Fall TV campaign.

Going into the Canadian Upfronts, Crull is bullish about a rebounding TV ad market.

“I have a lot of confidence in this Upfront season, about the firmness of pricing and volumes,” he said.

comments powered by Disqus