CBC crows, Global grows

The pubcaster says it beat Global's ratings this season for the first time since 1995. But Canwest says the Ceeb's numbers 'are not very relevant.'

Citing the success of its new action series The Border and the ‘highest ratings ever’ for the Rick Mercer Report, CBC is crowing that it beat Global Television for the first time in more than ten years this season, taking its prime-time share to 7.8.

Global came in with 7.4, according to a Ceeb statement issued late Monday that quoted 2+ numbers from BBM Nielsen. The ratings refer to weeks six through 32 of the season, spanning Oct. 1 to April 6, and put the pubcaster ahead of Global for the first time since 1995.

CBC programming chief Kirstine Layfield credits the win to her schedule’s mix of new and returning shows. ‘We’ve really hit our stride… Viewers can expect even more for the 2008/2009 season.’

Her counterpart at Global, Barbara Williams, credits CBC for the ‘great new Canadian shows they launched in the winter season,’ but adds that the net’s fleeting victory is not an issue, arguing that the numbers were ‘carefully managed to tell a specific story.’

‘The numbers game is one that we as broadcasters are all familiar with,’ says Williams, EVP of content for Canwest. ‘I respect CBC’s management of the time frame and numbers, but honestly it is not very relevant.’

For one thing, the CBC excluded September, when Global rolled out hit returning US series such as Prison Break, Heroes and House, the latter of which premiered on Sept. 25 to 3.3 million viewers – the highest debut of the fall season.

This season was also unusual because of the writers’ strike, which saw Global and CTV lose their most reliable American shows. That worked out very well for CBC which, as usual, held off on many series debuts until mid-season. Global had a harder time during the winter walkout because of its more comedy- and drama-heavy schedule. Apart from Survivor, it runs fewer reality shows than it used to, whereas CTV still had strike-proof ratings winners like American Idol and Dancing with the Stars.

The strike had a ‘huge impact,’ Williams admits. ‘It’s no secret that when you have American Idol, you can survive a strike more comfortably. Our programming mix happens to be less of the huge reality shows and more of the scripted programs, which were unavailable.’

While Global may have lagged in mid-season, it has had success with its returning shows this month, as series including NCIS, Bones, Boston Legal and The Office all increased their audiences from last fall. Despite facing Dancing with the Stars, Bones bounced back on April 14 with 1.2 million viewers, up 54% over its fall numbers. Boston Legal is up 170%.

Global is set to bring back House next week, though it’s moving to Mondays to stay in simulcast with Fox, which is moving the hit medical drama to make room for American Idol. The Canadian series Durham County, starring Hugh Dillon, will follow House starting May 19. Also new on the network’s schedule is the CBS drama Swingtown, starring Molly Parker (Six Feet Under) and Grant Show (Melrose Place), which premieres June 5.

From Playback Daily