CanWest MediaWorks: news, entertainment, heroes

What's Starcom MediaVest Group's SVP/investment director's take on the line-up presented by the third Canadian net to show its cards?

Although the 15 new (US) shows acquired by CanWest MediaWorks were already unveiled two weeks ago, yesterday marked the official launch of the fall schedules for the Global Television and E! networks. It was a bright but chilly morning as many advertisers, industry and press gathered at downtown Toronto’s Massey Hall to attend the presentation.

Kathleen Dore, president, Canadian television for CanWest MediaWorks, together with Barbara Williams, SVP of programming and production, and Kathy Gardner, SVP research and promotions, announced the nets’ prime-time line-ups, proudly touting the momentum the broadcaster has gained in the past two years. No one can dispute the proven performance of established programs including House, Prison Break and Survivor, as well as the positive growth imparted by successful series this past season, most notably Heroes and Brothers and Sisters.

As an aside, no one can dispute that women are now dominating the corridors of power at the broadcasters. In addition to these three women running the show at CanWest, CTV has two women in charge – with Rita Fabian running sales and marketing and Susanne Boyce in charge of programming decisions.

So what can we expect this fall? It looks like the 10pm time period will become the real challenge and perhaps the breaking point for Global. Three new dramas are about to make their debuts during this window, up against proven and successful properties on CTV.

Journeyman (pictured, Monday 10pm), the time-traveling drama starring Kevin McKidd, is up against the hit series CSI: Miami. Cane (Tuesday 10pm), the Latin family saga starring Jimmy Smits, will face Law & Order: SVU. Life, a drama about a wrongly accused and imprisoned detective, starring Damian Lewis (Band of Brothers), will confront CSI: New York. Canterbury’s Law, starring Julianna Margulies as a tough defence lawyer, will face the tough doctors of Grey’s Anatomy. So will Kevin, Jimmy, Damian and Julianna become the true heroes for Global TV this fall? Jimmy has the best chance (and indeed spoke to the audience remotely via video).

As dramas and reality programming become the success stories for the US networks, fewer and fewer sitcoms make it to the schedule each year. Global has picked up one new comedy, Back to You, starring Kelsey Grammar and Patricia Heaton. This new entry shows a lot of promise and will likely be a success.

For a little razzle dazzle at the presentation, the E! network schedule was introduced by the infamous Ryan Seacrest, lead anchor/managing editor of E! News. We all know the insatiable appetite people have for anything and everything Hollywood from the numerous magazines, tabloids and TV shows dedicated to the subject. And now the rebranding of CH to E! will attempt to capitalize on this craze. CanWest has certainly experienced the success of combining its news with Entertainment Tonight Canada, providing a solid platform for Global Television.

The question is, can the 8-11pm time block on E! – comprised mainly of established shows, most of which are of the reality genre (Deal or No Deal, Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?, The Biggest Loser, The Simple Life), together with a number of new entries (K-Ville, Bionic Woman, Women’s Murder Club, Viva Laughlin) – anchor the viewer and make this station an appealing destination?

It will be a difficult balancing act to ensure the successful position of E! as the CanWest executives balance the entertainment platform and its importance as a testing ground for new properties.

How are the Canadian nets likely to fare, night by night and slot by slot? Check out MiC‘s national grid.