LA Screenings: Canada Tempers Hollywood Buying Spree Amid TV Ad Revenue Declines

Timothy Kuratek/CBS
CBS' 'Survivor'

The Canucks will still be chasing the next 'Survivor' or 'The Big Bang Theory' as they debut network series day-and-date with the U.S. market.

Despite U.S. shows dominating their primetime schedules, Canadian broadcasters continue to see their TV ad revenues tumble.

So after rotating screenings of U.S. network pilots during the Los Angeles Screenings this week, the Canadians insist they'll be cautious when package buying rookie shows from their studio suppliers. "You don't want to spend too much, to later find the advertising isn't there," Phil King, president of CTV, sports, and entertainment programming at Bell Media, told The Hollywood Reporter.

The Canadians arrived in Los Angeles for their annual shopping expedition before the American networks unveiled final decisions on bubble shows and bringing back perennial favorites to their own U.S. schedules. Unlike other foreign buyers who mostly window shop at the Screenings, the Canadians remain fiercely competitive because they know momentum can shift quickly when your primetime schedule is a mish-mash of five U.S. networks, if you include The CW.

So they closely watched what's coming back and what's not ahead of the Upfront presentations in New York City, carefully gaming the U.S. schedules to finalize their own fall 2015 campaigns this week and next in Los Angeles. "The key is to spend smartly. Do we have more money? No. The business is challenged right now," Christine Shipton, senior vp and chief creative officer at Shaw Media, said.

Shipton's primetime schedule on Global Television is anchored by the NCIS franchise on Monday and Tuesday nights and popular shows like Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, The Good Wife and Survivor in its 30th season. But Shipton has holes to fill after Backstrom, Constantine, Gracepoint, About A Boy and other U.S. shows ended or were chopped.

Shaw Media tends to bulk buy at the LA Screenings via long-term deals with Sony, 20th Century Fox and CBS Studios. For Bell Media's King, who turns to long-term supply deals with ABC/Disney and Warner Bros. to finalize thei schedule for top-rated CTV, returning hits like The Big Bang Theory, Arrow, Marvel's Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D and How To Get Away With Murder means he has potentially few holes to fill in Los Angeles.

But CTV has worked to do on Sunday nights after ABC cut Resurrection, and King is waiting to see whether CBS moves Person of Interest from Tuesday nights. Hayden Mindell, vp of TV programming and content at Rogers Media, which has been the most impacted by the Canadian TV ad market slump, said he doesn't expect "a huge variance" with what the broadcaster spent for its City network last year at the Screenings.

City on Monday nights has 2 Broke Girls, Mike & Molly and the freshman drama Scorpion returning, while Black-ish and Modern Family are working on Wednesdays. "Our Tuesday night block is one we would like to strengthen this season," Mindell added, while City should also have more U.S. dramas post-Screenings to complement a comedy-heavy schedule after the success of Scorpion and Scandal on its schedule.

Despite their traditional claims to be frugal in Los Angeles, the Canadians in recent years have still paid progressively more for U.S. primetime shows to underline just how key they are for their primetime campaigns north of the border. The studio suppliers also expect the Canadians to meet spending targets before they fly out of LAX next week, with their suitcases full of rookie and returning U.S. shows to be shopped to Canadian advertisers at their own Upfront presentations in early June.