Canadians Unveil New U.S. Shows After Bidding Against Netflix at L.A. Screenings

Designated Survivor - Publicity - P 2016
Courtesy of ABC

Designated Survivor - Publicity - P 2016

Top-rated CTV dug deep to keep Mark Gordon's 'Designated Survivor' and 'Conviction' from Netflix after a bidding war.

Netflix had Canadian broadcasters sweating the small stuff last week at the Los Angeles Screenings before leading players like CTV and Corus Entertainment finished buying up new U.S. shows to finalize their 2016 fall season schedules.

Top-rated CTV picked up The Mark Gordon Company's Designated Survivor, Canadian-born Kiefer Sutherland's return to primetime on ABC, after a bidding war with Netflix. The auction for Designated Survivor, which is shot in Toronto, was led by Entertainment One Television CEO John Morayniss.

His company has a majority stake in Mark Gordon's production shingle, and also was shopping another CTV pickup, Conviction. Besides Netflix, CTV also beat out arch-rival Corus Entertainment for Designated Survivor and Conviction, which were considered must-have series by the Canadian broadcasters.

The Canadians in recent years have paid progressively more each year for proven U.S. primetime hits as they bargain with their traditional suppliers, underlining just how key American shows are to their primetime campaigns. But Netflix entering the fray this year changed all that.

Studio sources indicate the streamer bidding for new U.S. shows alongside the Canadians meant dealmaking last Tuesday dramatically lifted the price of digital rights in Canada this year. That worked to the advantage of Hollywood studio suppliers looking for Canadian SVOD rights overall to become more competitive and costly.

Netflix launched in Canada in late 2010, and major Canadian broadcasters didn't roll out their own streaming services — CraveTV from Bell Media and Shomi from Corus and Rogers Media — until late 2014. So along with the over-the-air rights to Designated Survivor and Conviction, Bell Media had to dig deep to keep the digital rights away from Netflix.

But CTV parent Bell Media is betting that paying top dollar for Designated Survivor will help strengthen its primetime offering to Canadians. TV viewers north of the border know Sutherland well after Fox's 24, and the Hollywood star is expected to help promote the launch of Designated Survivor, including to international buyers at MIPCOM in October.

Other CTV pickups included Notorious from Sony Pictures Television and ABC Studios for its Thursday night schedule; 20th Century Fox Television's This Is Us and The Exorcist; ABC Studios' family comedy American Housewife; and Training Day and Time After Time from Warner Bros.

CTV will pitch its new U.S. shows to Canadian advertisers in early June, as will Corus and Rogers Media, which operates the City network north of the border. "We can’t wait to introduce this next wave of Hollywood hits to advertisers next week and millions of Canadians this fall," Mike Cosentino, senior vp programming at CTV Networks and CraveTV, said Monday in a statement.

Netflix confounded studio negotiations at the L.A. Screenings for the Canadians, who traditionally buy on the ground before finalizing their fall schedules and jetting back to Toronto to hold their own upfront presentations. Netflix is understood to have acquired Greg Berlanti's Riverdale and a reboot of the feature film Frequency for its Netflix Canada service.

"Netflix made it clear that they wanted to bid aggressively on certain programs," Colette Watson, vp broadcast operations at Rogers Media, told The Hollywood Reporter. "But the studios still understand that having the linear television first window is an important part of how they sell programming rights," she added.

European broadcasters, in contrast to the Canadians, can window-shop at the Screenings before buying new U.S. shows later this summer. At the same time, the hot prices paid last week for digital rights to new U.S. shows is expected to impact other foreign buyers as Netflix continues to roll out internationally.

Rogers Media during last week's Hollywood shopping expedition insisted it held out for coveted rookie series like the Fox remakes 24: Legacy and Prison Break, and Warner Bros.' Lethal Weapon. "We went down to the Screenings to bring back the absolute best that television has to offer its viewers, and we're excited to be the exclusive home of these marquee, appointment-viewing franchises in Canada," said Watson.

Rogers is looking to tap into the built-in fan bases for its new shows to help launch them. "The addition of these instantly identifiable series to the schedule puts us in an unparalleled position for success this season," Watson added. The City parent is expected to unveil more new series acquisitions when it pitches its upcoming season to advertisers.

Corus' Global Television has yet to confirm its new U.S. series pickups, but it's understood that the network bought a slew of CBS shows, including Bull, MacGyver, Pure Genius, Kevin Can Wait, Man With a Plan and The Great Indoors.

Other Corus pickups include Timeless, Pitch and The Good Place, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. The new Canadian owners of the rookie U.S. shows are all betting they can distribute the new offerings across their growing internet, mobile phone and tablet platforms, in addition to traditional primetime TV.