Blog: Canwest upfronts: A gleeful launch

MiC guest blogger Valerie McMorran of Starcom shares her experiences at the Canwest upfronts yesterday at the Scotiabank Theatre in Toronto.

It was a hot and humid June morning as I made my way to the Canwest fall launch at the Scotiabank Theatre in Toronto, sharing a cab with a few of my colleagues. We arrived with 14 minutes left before the show began, enough time to mingle, grab a refreshing smoothie and learn more about the iPad and the newly designed Food Network site. As we made our way through the sea of people, we eventually found our way to theatre #3 with the colour-coded schedules we were handed upon arrival.

As we waited for the presentation to begin, we were entertained – sort of – with typical theatre-style Hollywood trivia questions. And then the lights dimmed and the film began. As a means of ensuring we paid attention, we were informed of our chance to win prizes as numbers (on our VIP passes) would be identified throughout the show.

The tone was quickly set as the filmed introduction depicted the financially troubled Canwest (‘Can’twest’), emerging from the doom and gloom as a successful media company – all done, of course, in the key of last season’s breakout hit, Glee. In fact, ‘Canwest turns your money into gold’ (literally the ‘Cash Man’ commercial from Toronto’s Oliver Jewelry) was played throughout the film. I am not sure how the other theaters reacted to it, but there was very little laughter in theatre #3. It was at this point my colleague leaned over and said, ‘I bet they were howling in the boardroom when they first discussed this idea.’

The film went on to showcase their proven programming both on their conventional and specialty assets. It was not a typical number-intensive illustration (thank you!) but rather a collage of program clips, which proved to be a much more entertaining way of showcasing their strengths. From time to time, talent from some of the shows (including Entertainment Tonight‘s Mary Hart and Donald Trump, who managed to plug his new hotel under construction in Toronto) would call out winning numbers for some great prizes. (No, I did not win anything.)

And then we heard about their new programs, five in total for the fall launch. Two dramas, Lonestar and Hawaii Five-0 make their debut on Monday night, scheduled after the long-running and successful House. Both new dramas seem be getting good buzz. Hawaii Five-0 even has the same theme song, although the young(er) people in attendance wouldn’t know that.

And although networks continue to struggle with the comedy genre, some promising laughter was heard as clips from the new (not-so politically correct) comedy, Outsourced, were shown. This comedy should fair well, scheduled as it is after The Office on Thursday nights. Following Outsourced is a new entry, Love Bites, a.k.a. Sex and the City/Love Actually. And then on Friday, Jimmy Smits returns in a new drama, Outlaw. Fridays are a tough night and Jimmy has not seen much success since his NYPD Blue days (remember Cane?). Here’s hoping, Jimmy.

There was a small portion of the show devoted to digital media, highlighting their content available via online, VOD as well as mobile apps. And for those fans out there, there was a reminder of the premiere date of Big Brother on July 8th.

Hats off to Canwest for a tight and entertaining show, with not a single word from anyone from Canwest. Now that is a first.

Valerie McMorran is the senior vice president of investment at Starcom MediaVest Group in Canada.

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