CTV’s upfront a Canadian celebration

Starcom MediaVest Group's SVP investment director, Valerie McMorran, tells MiC readers what yesterday's event was like from the POV of a media strategist.

As I made my way downtown to CTV’s upfront presentation yesterday with a few of my colleagues, we wondered what news the network would have to share with us. We all agreed that the summer-like weather and the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts provided an excellent backdrop to whatever news came our way. The crowds assembled quickly and the presentation began promptly at 4 pm.

During the next 90 minutes, CTV showcased its strength in the marketplace. It’s been Canada’s #1 network for seven consecutive years, with 18 of the top 20 programs, including CSI: Miami, Criminal Minds and Desperate Housewives. As Susanne Boyce, president, creative, content and channels, said, ‘Those 18 programs are all back.’

CTV boasted about owning Canada’s #1 series overall and #1 reality series, American Idol, Canada’s #1 drama series, Grey’s Anatomy, and Canada’s #1 comedy, Corner Gas (pictured).

These stats were not news to most of us. Nor was it surprising that A (formerly A Channel) is being positioned as a ‘complementary channel to CTV,’ and the testing ground for new shows. Many programs that were new last year and did not have a chance to air very long before the writers’ strike will return this fall on A, including Dirty Sexy Money, Pushing Daisies, Private Practice and Gossip Girl.

As optimistic as we media buyers would like to be about this strategy, our experience only makes us shudder at the predicted onslaught of program changes that will ensue. Nonetheless, the schedule announced yesterday was a good starting point, with 75% of its weeknight prime time in simulcast.

What was new was the time and attention given to Canadian programming at the presentation. ‘Our strategy is to originate more of our own programs in order to better control our destiny,’ said Ivan Fecan, president/CEO of CTVglobemedia and CFO of CTV.

Broadcasters, advertisers, media agencies and consumers all experienced the pangs of this past season’s writers’ strike. To mitigate any such future vulnerability, CTV has invested more in homegrown productions. Interestingly, two new Canadian series have been purchased south of the border. But, as Fecan said, ‘it’s reverse simulcasting. They will follow our lead.’

We learned about seven new series this fall, four to debut on CTV and three on A (see below).

With all that’s new about CTVglobemedia, it was fitting for Fecan – who referred to the broadcaster’s recent CHUM acquisition – to remark on how far CTV has come in the past 10 years, since the days of BBS (and I know some of the buyers around me had no recollection of those days).

It was also a time to say farewell to the Canadian success story Corner Gas, now in its last (sixth) season, to welcome an as-yet-unnamed new Canadian daytime series hosted by Citytv star Marilyn Denis and to highlight an all-new season of Canada’s Next Top Model.

I am Valerie. And I am Canadian. Proud of it too, even when subjected to embarrassing moments. Yes, you know what I’m talking about – certain dancing clips from last year’s fall presentation that made their way into this year’s presentation. I certainly did not expect that!
Valerie McMorran is SVP/investment director at Toronto-based Starcom MediaVest Group.

All times ET – New series bolded – (S) = Simulcast)


7:30 pm Degrassi: The Next Generation
8 pm The Amazing Race (S)
9 pm Desperate Housewives (S)

7 pm eTalk
7:30 pm Access Hollywood (New to CTV) (S)
8 pm Dancing With the Stars (S)
9:30 pm Corner Gas
10 pm CSI: Miami (S)

7 pm eTalk
7:30 pm Access Hollywood (New to CTV) (S)
8 pm Without a Trace
9 pm Dancing With the Stars (S)
10 pm Law and Order: SVU (S)

7 pm eTalk
7:30 pm Access Hollywood (New to CTV) (S)
9 pm Criminal Minds (S)
10 pm CSI: NY (S)

7 pm eTalk
8 pm CSI
9 pm Grey’s Anatomy (S)
10 pm ER (S)/Lost (S)

7 pm eTalk
7:30 pm Access Hollywood (New to CTV) (S)
8 pm Ghost Whisperer (S)
9 pm Supernanny (New to CTV) (S)
10 pm FLASHPOINT (S)/Law & Order: Criminal Intent

7 pm W-Five 8 pm Crimetime Saturday (repeats) (S)
9 pm Crimetime Saturday (repeats) (S)
10 pm Law & Order: SVU (S)


7 pm America’s Funniest Home Videos (S)
8 pm Gossip Girl (Season 2, New to A)
9 pm Cold Case (New to A) (S)
10 pm Mad Men (Season 2, New to A)

7 pm Robson Arms (New to A)
7:30 pm TMZ (New to A)
8 pm Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (New to A) (S)
9 pm Two and a Half Men (S)
9:30 pm Samantha Who? (S)

7 pm Robson Arms
7:30 pm TMZ
8 pm Pushing Daisies (New to A)
9 pm FRINGE (S)
10 pm Eli Stone (New to A) (S)

7 pm Robson Arms
7:30 pm TMZ
8 pm America’s Next Top Model (S)/Canada’s Next Top Model
9 pm Private Practice (New to A) (S)
10 pm Dirty Sexy Money (New to A) (S)

7 pm Robson Arms
7:30 pm TMZ (S)
8 pm Moment of Truth (New to A) (S)
9 pm America’s Next Top Model

7 pm Robson Arms
7:30 pm TMZ
8 pm Wife Swap (S)
9 pm Don’t Forget the Lyrics (S)
10 pm Stargate SG-1

7 pm Road to Avonlea (New to A)
8 pm The Big Picture (A – Movies)
10 pm Comedy Now! (New to A)
10:30 pm Comedy Inc. (New to A)


Eleventh Hour (A)

From blockbuster producer Jerry Bruckheimer (CSI, Without a Trace, Cold Case), it’s a new mystery series centring on Dr. Jacob Hood (Rufus Sewell, John Adams), a brilliant biophysicist. From cloning to so-called miracle cures, he investigates the rapidly growing number of crimes and crises of a scientific nature, accompanied and protected by outspoken FBI agent Rachel Young (Marley Shelton, American Dreamz). The series is based on the identically monikered British miniseries.

Flashpoint (CTV)

An emotional journey into the lives of a group of cops in the strategy response unit, inspired by Toronto’s Emergency Task Force. They do what ordinary cops can’t do: rescue hostages, defuse bombs, bust gangs, scale buildings. The show stars Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars), Hugh Dillon (Durham County, former singer for the Headstones), Amy Jo Johnson (Felicity) and David Paetkau (Whistler).

Fringe: (A)

From J.J. Abrams (Lost), Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (Star Trek, Mission Impossible: III, Alias), the new drama explores the blurring line between science fiction and reality. When an international flight lands at Boston’s Logan Airport and the passengers and crew have all died grisly deaths, for example, FBI Special Agent Olivia Dunham (Anna Torv, The Secret Life of Us) and her partner, Special Agent John Scott (Mark Valley, Boston Legal) are called in to investigate with the help of . Dr. Walter Bishop (John Noble, Home and Away). Although he’s known as the Einstein of the 21st century, Noble has been institutionalized for 20 years, and the only way to question him requires pulling his estranged son, Peter (Joshua Jackson, Dawson’s Creek), in to help.

The Listener (CTV)

A 20something paramedic is also a telepath, a secret he’s been trying to keep his whole life. He soon realizes his ability is not a curse but a gift, and uses it to help people in need. The show stars Craig Olejnik (In God’s Country).

The Mentalist (A)

Starring Simon Baker (Smith, The Guardian), the crime drama from David Nutter (Supernatural, Without a Trace) is about a famous former television psychic who, after being exposed as a fraud, uses his real abilities as a mentalist to help the California Bureau of Investigation solve crimes.

So You Think You Can Dance Canada (CTV)

Based on the smash hit created by Simon Fuller and Nigel Lythgoe, the series puts Canada on the list of countries that have localized the show, including the US, Australia, Norway, Denmark, Greece, Poland, Turkey, Germany, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa and Israel. The series showcases dancers as they compete first to impress an expert panel of judges, and later to win the votes of Canadians. The grand prize is $100,000. It will be hosted by Leah Miller (MuchonDemand). Permanent judges are Tré Armstrong and Jean Marc Genereux; alternating third judges are Luther Brown and Blake McGrath; special guest judges are Rex Harrington, Dan Karaty, Mary Murphy, Paul Becker, Sean Cheesman and Melissa Williams, all of whom serve as choreographers as well.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (CTV)

The space fantasy makes the transition to television in a CG-animated version from Lucasfilm. Each weekly episode is a 30-minute ‘mini-movie’ starring heroes Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Padmé Amidala and Anakin’s new Padawan learner, Ahsoka Tano, as well as nefarious villains including Darth Sidious, Count Dooku, General Grievous and the mysterious Asajj Ventress.