Global programmers tackle troubled timeslots

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AUSTRALIA
Australia's free-to-air TV audiences are fragmenting quickly, with overall audiences down year-over-year, despite a new ratings system that measures time-shifted viewing and the launch of four new digital terrestrial channels last year. The biggest question mark is over Ten's weeknight live light entertainment news program, "The 7 p.m. Project," which after six months on air averages 650,000 viewers a night and is not providing the lead in for Ten's primetime schedule. Ten's chief programming officer David Mott, however, has consistently said Ten remans committed to the program and will give it time to grow. -- Pip Bulbeck

 
CANADA
Evenings at 10 is a treacherous hour for Canadian commercial networks up against CTV's male-skewing "CSI" and "Law & Order" crime dramas. Global Television found traction at 10 p.m. with such female-skewing dramas as "Brothers & Sisters," "Melrose Place" and "90210." Global's "The Good Wife" is tied Tuesday with CTV's "Law & Order: SVU." But Rogers Media lost its bet with NBC's Jay Leno talker at 10 p.m. and now double-downs on such comedies as "How I Met Your Mother," "Ugly Betty" and "Chuck." Who says crime doesn't pay? -- Etan Vlessing

GERMANY
The afternoon slots remain a headache for commercial network Pro 7. Repeats of such U.S. series as "Desperate Housewives" and "Charmed" failed to impress, so Pro 7 has shifted to reality. The latest attempt is "The Jobsavers," a coaching format in which a team of experts try and rescue companies and individuals hard hit by the economic downturn. But given the show's poor debut -- an 8.4% rating in the target demographic -- maybe Pro 7 should hire the team themselves to sort out their schedule. -- Scott Roxborough

HONG KONG
For one of the only two free-to-air broadcasters in Hong Kong, the late news slot has been too malleable. While Television Broadcast set its late news time at 11 p.m. in February 2009, Asia Television's late news was moved up to 10:35 p.m. in February 2009 to attract early sleepers, then back again to 10:50 in October, and then changed again to 10:30. Nevertheless -- or as a result -- viewer numbers kept dropping to half of what they were a year ago. -- Karen Chu

ITALY
"Big Brother," which runs on Mediaset's Canale 5, is one of the most successful Italian television franchises of all time, but it causes a little bit of a programming problem when it takes its seasonal break. Four years ago the show moved from its original Thursday night home to Mondays where it often reaches as many homes as the other six national networks combined. But the program runs from October to March, and Canale 5 has had a hard time filling its Monday nights once the show pulls up its stakes. At first it tried running comedy films, followed by a season of "I Cesaroni," a comedy about a working-class family. This time it is running "Friends," a new variety show the broadcaster hopes will hold some of the "Big Brother" market share. -- Eric Lyman

JAPAN
The commercial networks are still feeling the pinch, even in the weekday "golden" time slot: 7-10 p.m. The nets have been furiously shuffling schedules by introducing and extending cheaper live broadcasts for news and variety programming. TBS, meanwhile, is doing a first for a domestic net and showing a Korean drama in primetime. "Iris," a big-budget production that it also invested in, is set to run for six months on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. -- Gavin Blair

 
MEXICO
Perennially heavy on primetime programming consisting of telenovelas and U.S. series, Mexican broadcasters must contend with what one network executive called the "dead" afternoon slot. Typically, afternoons belong to talk shows and children's programming, or when all else fails, the occasional infomercial. TV Azteca has experimented with U.S. soaps and news magazine "20/20," but neither panned out. Televisa's Channel 5 and Azteca's Channel 7 air mostly acquired content, with about 80% coming from the U.S. -- John Hecht

SPAIN
The most troubled time slot in Spain depends on which exclusive rights the broadcaster holds. Leading Spanish broadcaster Telecinco wrestles with the afternoon time slot on the weekends, when rival broadcaster La Sexta holds rights to the professional soccer league and Television Espanola successfully airs movies. Telecinco has been trying out contests and humor shows, while keeping an eye out for other options. During the week, its afternoon slot is very strong with daytime series "Save Me" performing well against TVE's popular "Love in Difficult Times." Both prove challenging for rival Cuatro, which is airing the third season of "Ghost Whisperer," but is getting ready to switch formats to a humor show when the run ends. -- Pamela Rolfe

UNITED KINGDOM
ITV's Thursday 9 p.m. slot will be available from the end of the year, when ITV's 27-year-old procedural crime drama "The Bill," produced by RTL-owned Talkback Thames, is axed and comes off air. The show hasn't performed well in the slot, and never really made the transition from a twice-weekly half-hour show that was its format for almost a quarter of a century. ITV director of teleĀ­vision Peter Fincham says he is looking for shorter runs of edgier, more distinctive drama. -- Mimi Turner
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