Canuck casters map out MIP strategies
When Susanne Boyce strolls the floor at TV trade show MIPCOM, Oct. 4-8 in Cannes, she won't be worried about les Joneses. CTV's president of programming says that if you are going to win the program acquisitions game at the international entertainment content fair, you can't fret about the competition or latest focus group results. You have to break rules. 'You have to play to win,' Boyce explains. 'It doesn't always mean you do. You have to stay focused.'
When Susanne Boyce strolls the floor at TV trade show MIPCOM, Oct. 4-8 in Cannes, she won’t be worried about les Joneses. CTV’s president of programming says that if you are going to win the program acquisitions game at the international entertainment content fair, you can’t fret about the competition or latest focus group results. You have to break rules. ‘You have to play to win,’ Boyce explains. ‘It doesn’t always mean you do. You have to stay focused.’
It may sound like Boyce is taking some advice from contestants on CTV’s The Amazing Race, but in this case she is talking about how CTV is going to maintain its audience winning streak against the likes of Global Television and surging specialties such as Showcase. For instance, CTV acquisitions Nip/Tuck and The Sopranos illustrate the net’s appetite for edgier fare and are not, she insists, a hedge against cable’s incursion on conventional television’s audience base. ‘Canadians are friskier,’ she says, adding that domestic audiences are accepting of naughtier language, nudity and violence on a traditional broadcaster when it’s ‘in context.’ She adds: ‘Risk is critical to success.’
‘I’ve always wanted to put a Canadian show on an equal playing field with an American show,’ says Boyce, and CTV is boasting somewhat of a breakthrough on that front. Canadian Idol – the domestic version of the British format – has been a huge hit with Canadian audiences – even outperforming the U.S. version in Canada. On Sept. 9, for instance, BBM ratings show CTV’s Canadian Idol earning 2.9 million viewers compared to the series launch of Joey on Global, which earned 2.3 million viewers, and Global’s season debut of The Apprentice, getting 1.9 million viewers.
Canadian comedy Corner Gas ranks among the country’s most-watched shows, with an average viewership around 1.5 million, and will be back for a second season starting in October. Also mixed in with the likes of the highly popular CSI franchise is the two-part miniseries Lives of the Saints – airing in January, starring Sophia Loren and coproduced with Italy’s Canale 5.
At Global, programming is undergoing a transition. ‘We’ve lost some big shows like Friends,’ says Doug Hoover, senior VP of programming and promotion at Global. ‘We’re in an evolution process.’ Much of Global’s schedule is sourced from NBC in the U.S., which heavily promoted its fall shows like Joey and The Apprentice during the Olympics in Athens.
Global Productions, says Hoover, approaches drama in two ways – higher-end, general-audience like Zoe Busiek: Wild Card and cost-sensitive domestic shows that cater to the local market, such as Train 48, an Australian format. Reality continues to be a major component of the Global schedule. ‘The audiences are very attractive and tend to be exactly what our advertisers are looking for.’
Isme Bennie, director of programming and acquisitions for CHUM’s Bravo!, Space and Drive-In Classics, says for Bravo! she’s looking mainly for major performance specials. At earlier MIPs, she bought the Andreas Bocelli at the Pyramids concert, which will air on Bravo! this fall. Bennie is also looking for the next Sex and the City – although she has the rights to air repeats of the HBO-originated series until 2006. And while reality programming is not a priority for the arts channel, Bravo! is currently in production with Toronto’s Kaleidoscope Productions on the eight-hour Bathroom Divas, a Canadian Idol-like talent contest for opera singers. That will be on the schedule for 2005.
At French-language Radio-Canada, Mario Clement is rolling out his first season since becoming the pubcaster’s director, general programming 18 months ago. The schedule, which is a bid to woo demographics including teens and young children as well as young men and women, includes programming that is more innovative in style and content, says Clement, through a translator. The half-hour transvestite comedy-drama series Cover Girl is a clear example of the new direction, along with the one-hour prison drama Temps dur.
And perhaps evidence that some programming changes are indeed more relevant to French-Canadian audiences, the new Sunday night talk show Tout le monde en parle – which replaces the previous arts performance stream – generated an audience of 1.7 million in its September debut, compared to the previous schedule’s regular draw of about 300,000. Arts and cultural programming, says Clement, continues to be an SRC priority. In fact, schedule hours for it are up this year but will be spread throughout the week, he explains.
Courtesy sister publication Playback, September 27, 2004