Eager Canadians will bid early, often


Canadian broadcasters — the biggest buyers out of the gate at the Los Angeles Screenings — expect to bid briskly on less product overall from their studio suppliers as the weeklong international TV event kicks into gear Friday.

"We're not going to screen very much," Barb Williams, executive vp content at CanWest Media, said in anticipation of fewer completed pilots on offer in the wake of the WGA strike.

CanWest goes into the shortened Screenings having already picked up a slate of NBC Universal product, including "Knight Rider."

Another big buyer this year is Rogers Media, which last summer acquired five Citytv free, over-the-air TV stations that had been programmed by Chum.

CTV, Canada's primetime ratings leader, has comparatively fewer holes in its schedule, and an exec said it won't fill them with sight-unseen purchases.

"I don't like to go behind Door No. 2. I like a calculated risk," said Susanne Boyce, CTV president of creative, content and channels.

No window-shoppers, the Canadians usually buy on the spot in Los Angeles before they rush home to sell U.S. fare to their domestic advertisers. Their urgency springs from a strategy to simulcast where possible U.S. series in the same time slot they hold on U.S. networks to maximize audience and advertising revenue.

But an annual TV bazaar that traditionally has come down to one week in May could be over by the first weekend for the Canadians.

"I expect it will be earlier rather than later," Boyce said.

Much will depend on supply deals. CTV will acquire mostly ABC/Disney and Warner Bros. product, while rival CanWest is expected to bulk buy from CBS Paramount, 20th Century Fox and Sony Pictures Television. (partialdiff)