Strike over in time for full-scale Oscars?

Maybe so, judging by a reported breakthrough last Friday. But whatever happens, CTV says it has plenty of alternative fare.

Despite reports that reps from the US writers’ guild and the producers’ association are finally making nice, the fate of the Academy Awards – the year’s largest TV draw in Canada – remains a mystery. But CTV is planning for pretty much every eventuality.

The network recently went down this road with the usually glamorous Golden Globes broadcast, which was reduced to a press-conference presentation that Canadian rights-holder CTV opted not to air. The Oscar situation ‘is the same,’ says CTV creative content head Susanne Boyce. ‘You plan for all scenarios.’

While Academy Award producers insist the show will go on, with Jon Stewart (pictured) hosting, what the content would be if there are no WGA writers working on it, and a star-discouraging picket line at the red carpet, remains to be seen.

The problem for advertisers who bought into the Oscars, then, is to decide whether to stay the course. The closest alternative in audience size and time of year is the Super Bowl. The big game aired exactly three weeks ahead of the Oscars, well before the fate of the film awards was known. Last year, the average audience for the Oscars was 4.9 million for CTV, compared to 3.6 million for the Super Bowl on Global; this year, CTV had the football championship as well.

‘Would I have moved the money into the Super Bowl? Probably,’ speculates Doner Canada broadcast manager Laura Wingfelder, who says this time around she doesn’t have any clients who have purchased the Oscars, ‘thank goodness.’ Otherwise, she says ‘the tip-off would have been the Golden Globes. I might have been calling CTV and saying, ‘We can’t risk this. We have to reinvest in other properties now.”

The trouble with shifting ad dollars from the Oscars to the Super Bowl is that the demographics for the two are hardly a perfect match, Wingfelder notes. In any case, inventory for football’s big game sold out well ahead of yesterday’s match.

CTV says no advertisers have pulled out of the Oscar broadcast so far. Furthermore, the net insists it has plenty of fresh programming to appease its clients should the worst come to pass. That includes a carefully hoarded new mini-season of Lost, as well as Eli Stone, Jericho, Nip/Tuck, the Showtime series Dexter, Golden Globe winner Mad Men and new CBS comedy Welcome to the Captain.

Of course, none of this fare is of the same calibre as a full-fledged Oscars broadcast. Yet, as Boyce notes, this predicament has not exactly snuck up on us, nor is CTV to blame. ‘There’s no point in panicking,’ she says, ‘because what can one do?’

From Playback Daily