Canwest inks unprecedented deal with NBCU

Announced yesterday, the surprise deal to deliver new series gives Global a jump on CTV, before next week's upfronts and the LA screenings.

Canwest announced yesterday – a full week before the New York upfronts and two weeks before the Los Angeles screenings – that it has picked up a raft of new NBC Universal series and renewed returning shows.

The deal makes Canwest the first Canadian broadcaster to cherry pick from the new crop of American shows for this fall.

Ron Suter, SVP/GM at NBC Universal Television Distribution Canada, says doing an early deal with Canwest allows Canadian advertisers more time to consider his studio’s new series. Referring to NBC’s earlier presentation of its 52-week schedule, he adds, ‘Our strategy to get out in front with advertisers this year provided us with an opportunity to have meaningful discussions about our new fall programming with our broadcast and cable partners earlier than we ever have.’

As part of its agreement with NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution, Canwest is acquiring NBC’s new Knight Rider series, a super-charged version of the 1980s drama, plus the Christian Slater project My Own Worst Enemy, a series about an mild-mannered efficiency expert who shares a body with a secret agent.

Other pick-ups for 2008/09 include Kath and Kim, which is based on an Australian comedy and stars Molly Shannon and Selma Blair, and an as-yet-unnamed mid-season spin-off of The Office that’s set to take the place of Scrubs. Canwest apparently took a pass on the new version of the Robinson Crusoe saga that’s also due out from NBC Universal after the studio reduced its reliance on expensive pilots during the current development season.

The deal, which will see the new series air on Global Television and E!, also includes programming for Canwest’s 21 specialty channels plus the recently acquired Alliance Atlantis channels.

Canwest also re-upped its NBC Universal series slate, including such top performers as House, Heroes and The Office, while it renewed the sophomore drama Life, reality series The Biggest Loser and drama Friday Night Lights. Absent from the returning list is Bionic Woman, which was cancelled.

Buying ahead of the Canadians’ annual spring migration to NYC and LA breaks the traditional gentleman’s agreement that sees domestic networks screen new US series pilots in full before placing bids for new series in late May. The ground-breaking deal is also notable because NBC Universal was the only studio supplier at last year’s LA screenings to divvy up its series between Canwest and CTV.

In 2007, Canwest did bulk buying with CBS Paramount, Sony Pictures Television and 20th Century Fox, while CTV did volume purchases with Warner Bros. and Disney/ABC.

Rival CTV remains tight-lipped about its upcoming fall schedule, but has picked up for the summer Disney’s High School Musical: Summer Edition for a July 20 bow, Celebrity Password for a June 1 debut and AMC’s Mad Men to begin June 8. That comes on top of the CTV/CBS co-pro Flashpoint, which will premiere on July 11.

From Playback Daily