CBC’s Stursberg unveils plan for ’07

CBC will develop more broad-appeal series and follow through on its news overhaul, according to a 'state of the union' letter from the net's programming czar.

CBC has made gains, but faces ‘significant financial challenges’ this year, according to Richard Stursberg, EVP English television who, in an email address to the network troops yesterday, set out his plan for 2007 – talking up the net’s emphasis on wide-appeal TV series, news and new media while firing back at its critics in the press.

‘We still have work to do, but we are by no means ‘beleaguered,’ as some of the country’s television columnists … would have people believe,’ he wrote, adding – in an apparent jab at media giants CTVglobemedia and CanWest – that some of those unnamed writers work for companies that have a ‘commercial interest … in our failure.’

‘Yes, there have been disappointments, but there have also been bright spots,’ he wrote, citing the ratings of The National and Little Mosque on the Prairie among others, and the net’s current primetime share of 7.3% – on par with last year and up slightly from 2004/05.

Stursberg also noted, however, that advertising revenues are expected to stay ‘soft’ through ’07, and raised the somewhat oblique warning that lack of cash at CBC ‘will mean redirecting resources from one area to another.’ That could mean any number of things – though a CBC spokesman was quick to dismiss the possibility of layoffs, saying there has been no talk of staff cuts ‘at this time.’

The Ceeb is developing more broad-appeal series, said Stursberg, and will continue to back away from short-run minis such as Dragon Boys, the crime two-parter that aired to weak numbers in January. ‘Series-based programs provide greater opportunity for promotion and, in turn, to build audiences,’ he wrote.

The year ahead will also see the network overhaul its news coverage, following through on plans announced in November, and continue to push for a stronger presence in new media. ‘We need increasingly to understand that we are a content company, no longer just a television or radio company,’ Stursberg stated, adding that a proposal for delivering high content, on-demand programming will be presented to the CBC’s board of directors in the coming month.

This story first appeared in Playback Daily.