Battles shaping up in Quebec’s fall TV season

A media buyer predicts TVA will trounce the province's other nets in at least one slot.

As Quebec’s major networks roll out their new fall lineups, all eyes are on the ruthless Sunday night ratings showdown between the province’s largest private network, TVA, and pubcaster Societé Radio-Canada.

TVA appears to want to quash its main competitor by jamming two of its most popular programs opposite the talk fest Tout le monde en parle, SRC’s top show for three straight seasons, which averages 1.7 million viewers per episode. (All ratings BBM 2+.)

On Sundays, TVA plans to air its hit Le Banquier, the Quebec version of Deal or no Deal, at 7 pm, and its long-running reality dating program Occupation Double (pictured) from 8-9:30 pm. Double drew 1.7 million viewers at the peak of its popularity last fall. Le Banquier – which is produced and hosted by Quebec media diva Julie Snyder – was the most watched program in Quebec last year, attracting an average of two million viewers.

‘Sunday night is the most important TV night in Quebec, and this year the networks will be head to head, but Le Banquier will be number one,’ predicts Jean-Pierre Giroux, VP of ad firm Touché!phd. Thirty seconds of ad time on the coveted 8-10 p.m. slot costs between $15-$20,000, roughly twice the normal rate, says the media buyer. Giroux believes TVA will win the battle because it has packed its Sunday night with family-oriented programs such as Banquier, which is preceded by kiddie talent contest Ecole de Fans.

Though Quebec viewers will likely do lots of channel surfing, ‘Banquier is a really strong locomotive to keep their audience for the entire evening,’ agrees Luc Cormier, EVP at Media Experts.

TVA’s aggressive Sunday night programming has caused a bit of an uproar in la belle province. TMOP host and co-producer Guy A. Lepage publicly accused TVA of lacking respect for Quebec viewers. At the launch of TVA’s new season, the network’s VP of programming, France Lauzière, laughed when queried about Lepage’s outburst. ‘We find this whole thing quite amusing. Sunday night is the biggest night for viewers, so we decided to fight back.’

Unlike the past few seasons, SRC is bringing back old favourites and continuing to build audiences for shows it launched last year, says Giroux. ‘SRC is being more prudent this year. They are going with sure bets, and the new shows they are launching feature popular personalities from the Quebec star system.’

One of those is the much-awaited (20 x 30) Les Boys, based on hit comedy movies about a garage-league hockey team, set to air Mondays at 9 pm. ‘Les Boys is going to be very popular. Everyone is familiar with the characters, and we will have the chance to see them evolve,’ says SRC spokeswoman Guylaine O’Farrell.

Also on Monday, SRC is bringing back its hit sitcom Rumeurs at 7:30 pm, followed by the popular téléroman L’Auberge du chien noir. Despite average ratings last year, the French-language network is giving the 13-ep comedy C.A. a second try on Mondays at 9:30. The pubcaster’s Tuesday night remains much the same as last year, with the popular weekly hour-long soap Providence airing at 8 p.m. and the (13 x 60) dramatic comedy Les hauts et les bas de Sophie Paquin at 9 p.m.

TVA is launching two new dramas this year, both on Wednesdays. Destinees at 8 p.m. is a 26-episode drama that takes place in a plastic surgery clinic; while (10 x 60) Les Soeurs Elliot at 9 p.m. follows two sisters whose father returns after vanishing 30 years earlier.

The big audience grab this fall for cable network TQS – which has a market share of roughly 12%, compared to SRC’s 15% and TVA’s 30% – is its Big Brother-style reality show The Loft Story. The weekly ‘gala’ program airs Wednesdays at 7:30 pm.

The Loft is a major program for TQS,’ Giroux points out. ‘It pulls in at least one million people every day.’

From Playback Daily