Buyers expect fewer sprees in LA

The pressure is on for Canadian broadcast buyers this year, but programmers bound for the LA screenings say they they don't expect any extravagant bidding wars.

Canadians bound for the L.A. screenings are betting that a bad advertising market will temper prices for new and existing U.S. network series.

As they go over their schedules and budgets ahead of their southward trek, the Canadians don’t need reminding from CRTC chair Konrad von Finckenstein that they continue to pay more each year for series that attract fewer viewers and ad revenue. But that could change this year as the recession stands to clip spending by the Canadians.

‘The pressure is on through the whole cycle, from production to sale. Are we hopeful the business will rationalize? We are. But we’re not naïve about the challenges,’ said Barbara Williams, EVP of content at Canwest Broadcasting. Williams’ acquisition strategy, as Global plays catch-up with CTV, includes buying only for Global Television, not the secondary E! network.

CTV boss Ivan Fecan promised the CRTC’s von Finckenstein, who has threatened to impose a spending cap on the Canadians at the screenings, no buying sprees at the annual TV market. ‘I think the market will take care of that kind of American spending because we’re not getting the margins we need for it. We don’t intend to engage in any bidding wars in this kind of environment,’ Fecan told the CRTC chair during the current license renewal hearings in Gatineau.

Much depends on output deals, as CTV tends to buy from Disney/ABC and Warner Bros., while Canwest does volume buying with 20th Century Fox, CBS Paramount and Sony Pictures Television. Other Canadian buyers this year include Toronto’s SunTV and Rogers Media, which needs a new fall slate for its Citytv-branded stations.

Malcolm Dunlop, EVP of programming at Rogers, forecasts a more traditional market this year. In 2008, after the Hollywood writers’ strike, Canadians bought rookie series mostly on scripts and storylines. CTV decided not to buy series sight-unseen, while Canwest rolled the dice on a slate of NBC Universal product.

‘This year should be more normalized in terms of trying to buy shows that you actually see and determine for your schedule,’ said Dunlop.

From Playback Daily