Mercer on top, Mosque headed down

Media buyers weigh in on CBC prime-time performers.

The Rick Mercer Report again led the pack on CBC’s prime-time schedule this season, while newcomers Being Erica and Wild Roses and the aging Little Mosque on the Prairie saw more modest numbers.

Among newbies, Erica had the upper hand and – helped by a thorough marketing campaign and a healthy dose of media buzz – averaged roughly 580,000 viewers for its debut season, with its season finale on par at 582,000. In comparison, the soapy Wild Roses nabbed roughly 480,000 on average, with its season finale dipping to 413,000 on March 31, overlapping partly with ratings juggernaut American Idol on CTV. (All numbers 2+.)

‘For a new show, [Being Erica] is not doing too badly,’ says Florence Ng, media buyer at ZenithOptimedia. ‘At the same time, it depends on how much it costs to produce the show…if the production costs are substantial, the question is, can they afford to bring it back.’

Mercer will be back with 19 episodes next season, untouched by the network’s recent cuts, following a strong season six that fetched one million viewers per episode in its Tuesday 8 pm time slot. Impressive, considering the show airs opposite American Idol in the winter.

American Idol isn’t for everyone, and Rick Mercer is a funny, topical show…the content is always changing,’ observes Dennis Dinga, VP and director of broadcast investments at M2 Universal. RMR is followed by This Hour Has 22 Minutes, which averaged some 700,000 viewers.

Meanwhile, Little Mosque ended its season on a high note with 830,000 viewers on March 23, though the Regina-based sitcom is losing steam on the whole, averaging around 600,000 viewers for its third season. That’s down roughly 200,000 from last year.

Dinga notes Mosque started off unusually high back in 2007 – a phenomenon with nearly 2.2 million viewers for its debut episode.

‘Some shows, unless they’re exceptional, haven’t developed an audience right off the start and they build on their audiences,’ he explains, adding that programs such as Mosque that are strong out of the gate may lose viewers along the way. ‘Look at Survivor, year after year it’s still hot, but each year [its audience] drops 4% to 6%.’

Ng feels the heyday of Mosque has come and gone. ‘After a while the hype dies down and it’s the same old, same old. They need to reinvent the story line a little bit,’ she notes.

Meanwhile, Sophie‘s numbers line up with comments CBC boss Richard Stursberg made a few weeks ago that the show is being dropped. The comedy struggled through its second season and lost half its viewership, averaging around 300,000 viewers, while its finale fetched 294,000 on March 23 after Mosque.

The family-aimed Heartland remains a consistent Sunday performer for CBC, nabbing nearly 600,000 viewers on average in its early prime-time slot, with its season finale scoring 594,000 on March 22. The numbers are down roughly 100,000 viewers from last season.

From Playback Daily