Canada's Rogers in league with Leno

Primetime talker will air on Citytv-branded stations

TORONTO -- Canadian broadcaster Rogers Media has taken a risky, though potentially lucrative, leap into primetime by acquiring NBC Universal's Jay Leno primetime talk show for its Citytv-branded TV stations beginning in the fall.

Leno's new series will air at 10 p.m. weeknights on Citytv's free, over-the-air stations in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg, while "The Tonight Show" with new host Conan O'Brien will remain on the rival A-Channel stations run by CTVglobemedia at 11:35 p.m.

Rogers Media, like rival broadcasters on both sides of the border, have struggled in recent years with U.S. network dramas in the 10 p.m. slot.

Few rookie U.S. dramas have stuck with Canadian viewers at 10 p.m. The most popular U.S. series on Canadian TV -- such as "American Idol," "Survivor" and "CSI" -- air earlier in primetime.

So Malcolm Dunlop, executive vp programming at Rogers Media, sees Leno at 10 p.m. as a novel way to navigate a treacherous time slot with more consistent first-run, primetime fare.

"This is a fresh viewing alternative with a proven host and big-name guest stars that will entertain audiences nightly," he said.

Citytv stations have previously filled the 10 p.m. slot with reality such series as "The Bachelor," "I Love Money" and Gordon Ramsay's "Hell's Kitchen," and NBC's "Crusoe" on Friday nights.

Ron Suter, executive vp of Universal Studios Canada, said stripping the Leno talker in primetime will enable Rogers Media to more easily promote one show, rather than five, at 10 p.m. weeknights.

"Promotion is going to be easier and more straight-forward," he said.

Rogers Media also will get into the lucrative simulcast game as it airs Leno in the same time slot it will hold south of the border, while it replaces the U.S. commercials with Canadian ones to increase local advertising revenue.

Leno's weeknight talk show will be followed by Citytv's late-night newscast at 11 p.m., and then "Jimmy Kimmel Live" at 11:35 p.m.