Buyers upbeat on CBC

New winter sked stands to cash in on WGA walkout, say buyers, giving a boost to new arrivals like The Border, though Sophie and jPod will have to work a little harder.

The longer US writers remain on the picket lines, the better for CBC, according to media buyers, who are optimistic about the new offerings on the pubcaster’s winter slate unveiled last week.

Kim Osborne, group director of broadcast at PHD Canada, says that while viewers are loyal to US programs on CTV and Global, they will be turned away by re-runs if the WGA walkout – now entering its fourth week – drags on. ‘They’ll definitely start watching other programs they haven’t seen before,’ she says, noting that if the strike continues, CBC’s new drama The Border will not face competition from Global stalwart 24, giving it a chance to build its audience.

The Border, about Canadian agents working on the front lines of immigration post-9/11, will air Mondays at 9 pm beginning Jan. 7, opposite the newly acquired ABC drama October Road on CTV. The return of 24 – which would normally air in that same slot on Global – has been pushed back by Fox indefinitely.

‘If the writer’s strike goes on, The Border has a really good chance,’ agrees Dennis Dinga, VP, director of broadcast buying at M2 Universal, noting that viewers may also be drawn in by its star Sofia Milos, of CSI: Miami fame.

The new comedy Sophie will have a tough time holding on to viewers generated by lead-in Little Mosque on the Prairie on Wednesdays, according to buyers, who say that Sophie skews toward a younger female demographic. ‘The crowd that watches Mosque is going to be a little different than the crowd watching Sophie. . . Mosque attracts more adults in general than just women,’ says Osborne.

Meanwhile, the video game-themed jPod has big shoes to fill as it takes over from The Tudors on Tuesdays at 9 pm. Dinga notes the ‘tech-y’ show will be hard-pressed to find a mainstream audience beyond the 18-24 crowd. ‘It will be tough, but it’s good to go for a different audience,’ he says, adding that CBC will have to ‘promote the heck out of’ its new shows during its December holiday broadcast schedule.

The soapy sports drama MVP has potential, according to Dinga, although he predicts it will be the first show on the cutting block if it doesn’t secure a decent following in the Friday 9 pm time slot.

Over in daytime, the lifestyle show Steven & Chris (the original Designer Guys) gets thumbs-up from Osborne, who says it has a chance to do well in the 2 pm time slot following the similarly themed Martha Stewart. ‘That time slot is really up for grabs across the board, because the other networks are not really airing their top-of-the-line soaps at that time.’

Both Osborne and Dinga agree that The Tudors, Dragon’s Den and Heartland are the highlights of what has been a strong CBC fall schedule. ‘[CBC] definitely had a better fall as opposed to last year, judging by the audiences,’ says Osborne, adding that the pubcaster even exceeded its own estimates.

Dinga says the winter slate stacks up to the fall schedule, noting that even if the writer’s strike ends soon, ‘I think it will hold up pretty well.’

From Playback Daily