Show must go on, say Canadian nets

The Americans may have held back this year, but Canadian nets say their upfronts will bring the usual glitz and glam.

Canada’s private networks will trot out their fall schedules with the usual pomp and pageantry beginning next week in Toronto, despite the scaled-down upfront presentations put on by their US counterparts, which are still recovering from the nearly four-month strike by the Writers Guild of America.

Although programmers from CTV, Canwest and Rogers Television are keeping details of their presentations vague, it appears they will continue to pull out all the stops to impress prospective advertisers.

‘I can tell you we have some surprises in store,’ says CTV president of creative, content and channels Susanne Boyce, who adds that, in addition to the main network’s schedule, CTV is looking forward to unveiling its A-Channel lineup for the first time. Boyce describes the LA screenings as ‘quiet and quick,’ and says she focused on projects that arrived with pilots.

CTV’s upfront presentation next Monday will be staged in Toronto’s Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, the same venue as last year.

Rogers Television Group and its EVP of programming, Malcolm Dunlop, went shopping for the Citytv stations for the first time, having done so in past years for OMNI channels. ‘It was challenging,’ he says, ‘but you just have to roll with the punches.’

Dunlop adds that Rogers execs focused on obtaining more scripted programming for the five cross-Canada Citytv channels, acquired last summer from CHUM. ‘There was so much reality programming on [Citytv already] that we felt more scripted programming would be beneficial to us,’ he says.

Rogers is planning a June 12 presentation that, says Dunlop, will be ‘a little splashier than in the past. CHUM did a very good job at the launch, [but] we want to make this a big deal…. We have a sked worth talking about.’ Rogers will also focus its presentation on the fall launch of two new OMNI channels in Calgary and Edmonton as well as its newly acquired multicultural Channel M in Vancouver.

Canwest EVP of content Barbara Williams says her network is still putting a lot of emphasis on a ‘strong and successful’ upfront presentation, despite what she notes was a very different year for US screenings. ‘They were generally less showy – less about stars and performance and more about schedules and shows and where [US] broadcasters are going,’ she explains.

Williams says the American studios were helpful at showing concepts, giving scripts and even providing access to key creatives in cases where no pilots were available for new shows. ‘Everyone worked really hard to ensure that nobody was feeling they were making decisions in the dark.’

Canwest will host its presentation on June 4. Williams is keeping mum about the event, saying only, ‘We have a great show for people.’

From Playback Daily