Canadians Buy Few Rookie U.S. Series Amid Pandemic

Virginia Sherwood/NBC
'New Amsterdam'

The Canucks followed the U.S. networks in mostly renewing American dramas and comedies from last season like 'New Amsterdam' and 'The Connors.'

NBCUniversal's upcoming streaming service, Peacock, won't be launching in Canada anytime soon after the Hollywood studio this week unveiled a long-term, exclusive deal to bring marquee Peacock shows like Dr. Death and Girls5Eva to Canadian audiences via local broadcaster Corus Entertainment.

And also not coming north this fall is a slew of rookie U.S. network series bought from studio suppliers following a severely disrupted Los Angeles Screenings, the annual Hollywood shopping expedition for Canadian broadcasters.

"There's a lot of returning product in the schedule," Daniel Eves, senior vp broadcast networks at Corus, told The Hollywood Reporter after he picked up just three new fall series for his Global Television network — the Christopher Plummer and Archie Panjabi conspiracy drama Departure; The Equalizer, starring Queen Latifah; and Fox's neXt.

Canadian primetime schedules where possible mirror those of the U.S. networks so they can simulcast hit shows to boost ad revenue. And high-rolling Canadians have always had an eye out at the L.A. Screenings for rookie shows that seem like potential hits.

But with the U.S. networks mostly sticking with their 2020 primetime schedules amid the pandemic, Corus will be returning 30 American dramas and comedies this fall, including New Amsterdam and Prodigal Son. Hayden Mindell, vp of TV programming at rival Rogers Sports and Media, also bought few rookie U.S. shows this year as his Citytv network stresses stability with its 2020-21 schedule for local advertisers facing massive uncertainty.

"Other than Fox, no one really changed their schedules. It will be a much easier fall, a steadier one," Mindell told THR. Rogers package bought three shows at the L.A. Screenings from Universal Television — the Young Rock comedy starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson; Tina Fey and Robert Carlock’s Mr. Mayor; and Dick Wolf's spinoff Law & Order: Organized Crime drama, along with Fox's animated comedy The Great North.

Otherwise, 21 series will return to Citytv in the fall, including the Chicago franchise, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. Consistency is also the watchword for CTV, which will return with 18 shows this fall, including This is Us, The Masked Singer and The Connors.

CTV picked up just three new American shows: the Chuck Lorre comedy B Positive, for Thursdays following Young Sheldon; Supermarket Sweep; and Filthy Rich. "Not too many moving parts," a CTV exec said of their 2020 primetime campaign.

All of which leaves 2020 as a gap year for the Canadians. Unlike other foreign buyers, they typically buy on the hop at the L.A. Screenings around a dozen rookie American shows for their fall campaigns. And then they rush back to Toronto to unveil their new and returning U.S. shows at glitzy in-person presentations in early June.

This year, Canadian broadcasters like their U.S. peers scuttled their in-person presentations and did short virtual presentations this week to nervous local advertisers.