Junos beat 'Race' after backlash

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TORONTO -- Red-faced organizers of the Junos, Canada's music awards, on Wednesday bowed to pressure from domestic musicians and decided against bumping Sunday's awards telecast to a late-night time slot to accommodate a two-hour episode of CBS' "The Amazing Race" at 8 p.m.

The Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences said the Juno Awards will air live from 7-9 p.m. on the CTV network in Ontario, for example, with a rare tape delay of the red-hot U.S. reality series to follow the music industry salute.

CARAS initially planned to air the Junos at 10 p.m. in Ontario and Quebec and as late as 11 p.m. in Atlantic Canada to keep CTV's 8 p.m. simulcast slot for a super-sized edition of "Race," a perennial hit for the Canadian network.

But a backlash Wednesday from Canadian music artists, including many who were to present or receive awards in Saskatoon, prompted CARAS and CTV later in the day to delay the primetime airing of the U.S. reality series in most parts of the country.

"The artists have spoken, and we listened," Susanne Boyce, CTV president of programming, said late Wednesday of the better time slot for the Junos, hosted by Nelly Furtado this year.

Canadian artists to perform Sunday in Saskatoon include Three Days Grace, Alexisonfire, k-os and the Tragically Hip.

Boyce initially said that her network planned to air the Junos after "Race" because both shows have a young demographic and CTV was confident loyal viewers of the U.S. reality series would stick around for the Junos telecast.

But CTV a month ago learned that CBS was adding a second hour to its Sunday night telecast, and it took some time to gauge whether the U.S. network planned two one-hour episodes or if it planned to lengthen the one-hour show to two seamless hours.

When CARAS and CTV received confirmation last week that it would air as a single supersized edition, the decision to go with a tape-delayed, late-night slot for the Junos was made.

But the industry backlash forced rescheduling all around. CARAS chairman Stephen Sohn said the red-carpet entrances for music artists and the actual two-hour Juno awards show in Saskatoon will now start at 5 p.m. local time, rather than 7 p.m. as earlier planned, to accommodate the TV time slot changes in eastern Canada.

That means artist rehearsals will need to begin earlier in the day Sunday, and about 15,000 ticket holders in Saskatoon must be notified that they will need to arrive two hours earlier than planned.

"Today's news follows the overwhelming feedback we received from Canada's music community and, together with CTV, we have arrived at this alternative broadcast plan for the Eastern time zones," CARAS' Sohn said.

Randy Lennox, president and CEO of Universal Music Canada, praised CTV for reacting quickly to criticism that Canadian music artists were taking a back seat to "Race," a ratings machine for the Canadian broadcaster.

"The artists have spoken, the major labels and the indie labels acted as conduits back to CTV and they have been expeditious in recognizing the wishes of artists," Lennox said.

Two years ago, CTV faced criticism after it blended a special 90-minute episode of ABC's "Desperate Housewives" with red-carpet coverage of the Juno artists' arrival, before going with a tape-delayed airing of the awards show, to maximize the audience reach for the hit U.S. import.

CTV and other private Canadian broadcasters typically simulcast U.S. network series like "Race" in the same time slots they hold south of the border and replace the U.S. commercials with Canadian advertising, to drive their audience and advertising revenue.
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