New season, old woe for the nets up north

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Canada's broadcast networks aren't sounding the alarm yet, but the new fall season has done nothing to stem the loss of primetime viewers.

TV viewership in English-speaking Canada, where U.S. series dominate schedules, is down about 6% year-over-year, according to market-leading networks CTV and Canwest Broadcasting. But both nets are putting a positive spin on the early returns.

"People should not panic. It's not like (primetime audiences) are down a lot," CTV chief Susanne Boyce said Wednesday.

"We'd have liked it to have grown," added Barb Williams, senior vp programming and production at rival Canwest. "The conventional has drifted, but there's both some interest in new shows and pretty solid strength in returning shows."

As in past years, returning U.S. series continue to connect with Canadian viewers. Primetime ratings leader CTV has done its best numbers with simulcasts of such ABC series as "Grey's Anatomy" and "Desperate Housewives" and CBS' "CSI," which runs at 8 p.m. Thursdays, an hour before airing in the U.S.

Canwest's Global Television has done well with Fox's "House" on Tuesdays and CBS' "Survivor: Gabon" on Thursdays.

Slumping numbers for U.S. series this fall also have allowed openings for local fare. The top-rated Canadian primetime show this season is CTV's "So You Think You Can Dance Canada," and the network's Thursday night cop drama "Flashpoint" has performed in reverse simulcast stateside on CBS.

The Canadians also attribute the year-over-year viewership loss to disruption from the WGA strike and pre-emptions caused by the Canadian and U.S. election coverage and the recent World Series on Fox. (partialdiff)
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