Canadians zip through L.A. Screenings

Only 18 completed pilots available

The Canadians have wrapped their dealmaking at the Los Angeles Screenings, marking what is likely the fastest-closing window for this voracious consumer of U.S. TV programs. The Screenings began Friday.

With only 18 completed pilots to view as they toured studio lots, the Canadians didn't need much time to sign off. They were making decisions on full pilots only. Usually, they take a week to wrap.

But Canadian buyers say they won't have to wait long to choose from an onslaught of new midseason series expected from the networks in winter 2009. They expect a second "demi" screenings from their studio suppliers later in the season.

"It won't be a formal screening like we do in L.A., but as pilots get done, I get the sense that January will be when the shows hit the schedule," said Don Gaudet, GM of programming at SunTV.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros. International Television was in full hospitality mode Monday with more than 425 broadcasters on the lot from Australia, the U.K., Germany and Mexico. WBITV president Jeffrey Schlesinger assured them, "Despite a shortened pilot season, we have some of the most globally appealing shows in recent years to screen."

Foreign broadcasters saw pilots for J.J. Abrams' "Fringe," Jerry Bruckheimer's "Eleventh Hour" and Bruno Heller's "The Mentalist," among others. "Fringe" has turned out to be one of the hot-ticket series at the screenings and was among the confirmed shows for Canada's CTV.

Warner Bros. Television Group president Bruce Rosenblum told buyers, "The writers strike had a profound effect on our business, impacting the entire development process ... but I'm pleased to say (we) just wrapped another great development season, with all our drama pilots picked up." He joined Schlesinger and Warner Bros. Television president Peter Roth in a high-energy program presentation.

Canada's CTV has also signed off on WBITV's "Eleventh Hour" and "The Mentalist."

Rival CanWest Media, still playing catch-up in Canadian primetime, rolled the dice on a slate of NBC Universal product with no pilots, just straight-to-series orders. CanWest also picked up the comedy "Worst Week" from CBS Paramount. Rogers Media picked up NBC Universal's "Crusoe."

Etan Vlessing reported from Toronto; Steve Brennan reported from Los Angeles.