Rogers Media, Shaw Media Scale Back Canadian TV Upfront Presentations

'DC's Legends of Tomorrow' - H 2015
The CW

A changing broadcast landscape has splashy events and red carpets with U.S. network stars replaced with intimate meetings with ad agencies and clients.

A packed schedule of parties and presentations at the Canadian Upfronts each June to tout new U.S. network shows acquired at the Los Angeles Screenings has been drastically scaled back this year.

Only Bell Media will do a lavish presentation this week in Toronto, allowing advertisers to mingle with stars of CTV network's new U.S. shows like Greg Berlanti's mystery thriller Blindspot and the Arrow/The Flash spin-off DC's Legends of Tomorrow from Warner Bros. on June 4 at the Sony Center.

"Following a successful agency tour last week where I personally walked through our buys to senior agency partners, we want to celebrate the industry together at our Upfront event," Phil King, Bell Media president CTV, sports, and entertainment programming, told The Hollywood Reporter on Monday. Rivals Rogers Media and Shaw Media by contrast have canceled their traditional glitzy bashes to unveil their latest Yank-heavy primetime schedules.

The networks have opted instead for cross-country roadshows to streamline their pitches for ad dollars with agencies and clients. "Our approach this year is reflecting the changing nature of our industry. Instead of doing one mass event, we are doing a variety of different events targeted at specific audiences," a Shaw Media spokesperson said.

Budgetary concerns in part lay behind the restrained presentations from Shaw Media and Rogers Media this year. And the Canadians are also following the lead of U.S. cable channels that are similarly getting up close and personal with ad agencies to sell their inventory amid softer TV ratings and audiences increasingly migrating online.

Al Dark, senior vp media sales at Rogers Media, said smaller and more intimate meetings with ad agencies and clients aims to drive as much revenue as it can from a 2015-16 inventory beyond a U.S. series-heavy city schedule. "It's not about a single platform anymore. We want to talk about the exceptional content that we create around our brands, and what the strategy is based on how we distribute that content," he said.

CTV will host a big event for agencies on Thursday after emerging with 16 of the top-20 shows on Canadian TV during the 2014/15 season, led by The Big Bang Theory in first place, Criminal Minds in fourth place and CSI: Cyber in fifth.

Ahead of its glitzy Upfront presentation on Thursday in Toronto, CTV already unveiled its recent buys at the LA Screenings, which include a raft of ABC Studios' titles like the conspiracy drama Quantico, Oil and Code Black, a co-production with CBS Television Studios.

Rogers Media and Shaw Media will this week unveil newly-acquired American shows for their Fall 2015 campaigns on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. Canadian broadcasters in 2009 also scaled back their Upfront presentations after the LA Screenings in the wake of the Hollywood writers' strike and its disruption to their annual TV bazaar with the major studios.

But this year's low-key presentations follow a continuing Canadian advertising slump for conventional broadcasters that traditionally depend on U.S. network shows for audiences and ad dollars.