Slew of U.S. fare, E! go CanWest

Canadian b'caster retools fall sked, preps rebranded net

Canadian broadcaster CanWest MediaWorks on Wednesday unveiled a fall lineup filled with new U.S. programming as well as the U.S.-based E! network in Canada, which will launch in September.

This coming TV season, CanWest — which runs two parallel networks in Canada, Global Television and CH — will challenge rival CTV for dominance in Canadian primetime after buying rookie U.S. series and renewing returning series at the recent Los Angeles Screenings.

CanWest pitched domestic advertisers on a host of fresh blood Wednesday in Toronto, including the simulcast of NBC's "Journeyman" on Global Television on Monday nights, going up against the "CSI: Miami" simulcast on CTV, and the Jimmy Smits-starring CBS drama "Cane" on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. opposite "Law & Order: SVU" on CTV.

Barbara Williams, senior vp programming and production at CanWest, said the strategy of simulcasts of Fox's "Prison Break" on Mondays at 8 p.m. and NBC's "Heroes" at 9 p.m. provide ballast for "Journeyman" at 10 p.m., while Fox's "House" — another hit series north of the border — at 9 p.m. on Tuesday is meant to help "Cane" at 10 p.m.

CanWest also retooled Wednesday nights on Global Television, beginning with the simulcast of the Fox sitcom "Back to You," starring Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton, at 8 p.m., with NBC's "Life" airing at 10 p.m.

CanWest — which did bulk buying in Los Angeles from Sony Pictures Television International, 20th Century Fox Television Distribution and CBS Paramount International TV — only tinkered with Global Television's Thursdays, rescheduling CBS' "Survivor" at 8 p.m., followed by "The Office" at 9 p.m. in simulcast and "My Name Is Earl," also from NBC, postreleased at 9:30 p.m.

Playing catch-up in Canadian primetime to CTV, the current Canadian ratings leader, CanWest will maximize opportunities to simulcast or air U.S. shows in the same time slot they hold south of the border and replace U.S. commercials with Canadian ones to drive advertising revenue.

Williams also said Global Television has more returning series in their second or third years with room to grow compared with CTV, which has such stalwart shows as "ER," the "Law & Order" franchise and even "American Idol," whose audiences began to cool off last season.

"We have strong, returning hits, and they're fresh hits," she said, the lone exception being "Survivor" on Thursdays.

CanWest also will launch E!, the rebranded, free, over-the-air network that stems from a multiplatform agreement with Comcast Entertainment Group's U.S.-based E! Networks. The Canadianized E! will air a raft of E! shows originating from the U.S. during the daytime and "E! News" nightly at 7 p.m.

The new channel, which marks the first time E! airs as an over-the-air network, also will air NBC's "Deal or No Deal" on Mondays at 8 p.m., followed by the simulcast of Fox's "K-Ville" at 9 p.m. and E!'s "Rich Kids: Cattle Drive" at 10 p.m.

On Tuesdays, the reality series "The Biggest Loser" will air at 8 p.m., followed by E!'s "Dr. 90210" reality series at 9 p.m. (with Sony Pictures Television International's "Cashmere Mafia" as a midseason replacement), followed by the fourth season of "Boston Legal" airing at 10 p.m.

Wednesdays will see the rookie CBS reality series "Kid Nation" simulcast at 8 p.m., followed by NBC's "Bionic Woman" at 9 p.m. and E!'s "The Simple Life" at 10 p.m.

E! will air movies on Thursdays, with the newly acquired ABC drama "Women's Murder Club" airing in simulcast at 9 p.m. on Fridays.

CanWest will draw heavily from the E! catalog for its weekend scheduling, with "E! Live," "On E!" and "E! True Hollywood Story" anchoring Saturday night and "E! Countdowns" and "E! Live" airing Sunday nights.

Also on Sundays is CBS' "Viva Laughlin" in prerelease at 7 p.m.

As at rival Canadian networks, CanWest has chosen to schedule much of its required Canadian programming at midseason to fill slots left vacant by canceled U.S. series.