Rogers Media: Still Banking on U.S. Network Series, Despite Canadian Ratings Wobble

9:12 AM PST 11/04/2013 by Etan Vlessing
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"We all as broadcasters continue to need hit shows to fuel our schedule. And those hits are coming from the U.S. studios," said top LA Screenings buyer Hayden Mindell.

TORONTO -- Hayden Mindell has a math problem he and other Canadian broadcasters are hard-pressed to solve.

The head scratcher is the rising cost of rookie and returning U.S. network series at the same time they earn dwindling ratings and ad revenue as they air in Canada.

But cutting that Gordian knot is no easy task, considering Canadian broadcasters rely on expensive U.S. primetime series to capture audiences otherwise slipping away to view buzzy cable dramas and Netflix Canada.

"It seems counter-intuitive. We all as broadcasters continue to need hit shows to fuel our schedule. And those hits are coming from the U.S. studios," Mindell, recently promoted to vp TV programming and content at Rogers Media, told The Hollywood Reporter.

The City network is getting its biggest ratings from popular comedies like Mom, How I Met Your Mother, The Crazy Ones and Two Broke Girls.

And U.S. dramas like Revolution and Revenge have also been pressed into action to drive its primetime schedule.

"So I can't imagine a time when we won't be bidding aggressively for those programs," added Mindell, who recently replaced Malcolm Dunlop as Rogers Media's top buyer at the Los Angeles Screenings.

That vote of confidence in U.S. network series will be welcomed by the U.S. studios, for whom Canadian broadcasters remain key package buyers of their series, via long-standing supply deals.

But, with Canadian advertisers noticing popular U.S. series are no longer a broadcaster's ace in the hole, something has to give at Rogers Media.

And that looks to be U.S. syndicated fare.

"In daytime, we're going to rely on more in-house produced programming, and a little less on syndicated programming," Mindell said after Rogers Media took a bet on the lifestyle series The Chew and Katie Couric's syndicated talker Katie as part of a deal with Disney/ABC TV.

Rogers Media will be doing more to exploit its Breakfast Television and Cityline daytime properties to target an advertiser-friendly demo with ample product integration and branded content.

Top-rated CTV is also banking on in-house day-time series like The Marilyn Denis Show and The Social, while Global Television runs a repeat of Entertainment Tonight Canada.

Mindell argues he's not so much down on syndication fare as he sees opportunities from in-house production to woo advertisers with more cost-effective content.

"There's not really a lot of room in second place to be successful," he said of a crowded Canadian daytime talker arena to woo former Oprah-viewers with contenders like The Talk, The Ellen DeGeneres Show and The View.

Rogers Media has also thrown the original series door wide open in primetime, while inviting foreign partners to share costs and risks.

"We're looking for opportunities for new financing models, new creative partnerships that tap into American and international partnerships that are bringing money to the table in different ways," explained Nataline Rodrigues, the newly installed director of original programming at Rogers Media.

Examples of the Canadian network getting creative with American partners include U.S-style shows like the Eva Longoria-starring animated comedy Mother Up!, a co-production with Hulu, and City's Wild Things with Dominic Monaghan being picked up by BBC America.

Wild Things was co-commissioned by the Rogers Media cable channel OLN and the UK's Channel 5, and comes from indie producers Cream Productions and Wildfire Television.

"If we want Canadian originals to continue to be successful and play at that level, then lets look to new financing models and new business opportunities with the international community," Rodrigues insisted.

Rogers Media's other original series include the sitcoms Package Deal and Seed, the format adaptation Storage Wars Canada and the reality series The Project: Guatemala and Meet the Family, produced by Derek Harvie.

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