Axing of 24 no big loss here

Canadian media strategists tell MiC the action series is no longer the ratings magnet it once was - so Fox's decision to cancel its upcoming seventh season because of the US writers' strike won't have much impact on marketers here.

Yesterday, only three days into the US writers’ strike, Fox announced its decision to cancel the seventh season of 24 rather than air what’s already been shot and risk disruption later on. ‘It’s not a decision we wanted to make, but it’s based on how we feel viewers expect us to schedule the show,’ Fox scheduling chief Preston Beckman told The Hollywood Reporter.

Barbara Williams, SVP programming & production at CanWest MediaWorks, tells MiC the cancellation ‘will undoubtedly disappoint fans, but with the uncertainty of the writers’ strike, this difficult choice was made in the best interest of the viewing audience.’

The absence of 24, which had been skedded for an 18-week run beginning in mid-January, won’t affect Canadian advertisers as negatively as it might have in the past, says M2 Universal president Hugh Dow. ‘The show has experienced significant audience declines over the last year and is not the blockbuster it once was – which perhaps is an underlying reason why it was cancelled.

‘Because of this, it should not be a major challenge for Global to replace with a similar audience-generating property,’ he adds. ‘So we’re not overly concerned about the cancellation, nor do we see this as a huge issue or setback for Global.’

Florence Ng, VP broadcast investment at ZenithOptimedia, agrees with Dow. ‘I don’t think the cancellation will have a major impact on any of our clients. The show hasn’t been delivering top-ten ratings, so we would not have put a lot of weight in it. And it may turn out to be not too bad for CanWest Global either because, if 24 isn’t running, they could just continue to simulcast Heroes in the Monday 9-10 time slot.’

Williams isn’t being that specific at this point. She says only that ‘Our mission remains to put together the most entertaining and well-paced mix of schedules for our audiences, and we are fully prepared, with options available from a wide base of our content providers, both at home and in the US.’

As for what’s likely to happen in the States, media speculation is that Fox will substitute Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles for 24 beginning Jan. 13. Other down-south betting is that when House runs out of original episodes, the debut of Hell’s Kitchen will be pushed forward to take its place.

In other strike-related news, ABC announced yesterday it still plans to air the eight episodes of Lost that are already in the can in mid-season.