Shaw Media to back new shows: Williams

Global programming exec Barb Williams talks to Etan Vlessing about being “in the thick of it” in LA and building the net’s schedule with returning hits and rookie hopefuls.

Back in Toronto this week, wagging tongues have new owner Shaw Communications limiting the ability of top Global Television programmers to negotiate and manoeuvre for rookie series full-throttle at the Los Angeles Screenings.

It’s anything but the case, says Barb Williams, senior vice president of content at Shaw Media. She knows there’s a legacy from last year when, while deep in a hole from a lingering TV ad slump and court-directed creditor protection, she and fellow Canwest Global Communications execs were sent to refresh the Global Television lineup in sunny Hollywood under dark and ominous corporate clouds.

But Williams insists what was true at the 2010 LA Screenings still holds this week: Global Television backers, knowing the importance of U.S. simulcasts, continue to give the network programming team the financial muscle required to buy potential hits in Los Angeles.

“Everyone is curious about that. But I can honestly say that, when we went down to Los Angeles (in 2010), we had a strong commitment from all of the key players that we needed to go to do a good job,” she told Playback Daily.

“I don’t think that has changed. We will go down there and be smart, and spend wisely and we will do a good job,” Williams added.

Veteran Global Television programmers have already given the new ownership team at Shaw Media an essential and exhaustive guide to the annual Hollywood shopping expedition so they don’t wilt in the heat of battle.

“They have to trust that once we’re down there and in the thick of it, we’re good at it,” Williams said.

It also helps that Shaw Media, with one conventional network remaining after the demise of E! Canada, is in far better financial shape than last year.

The Canadian TV ad business has rebounded, and conventional TV revenues were helped by the recent federal election and an upcoming provincial election in the country’s biggest TV market, Ontario.

“We’re in a great place this year, with lots of solid returning shows to give the schedule a real foundation,” Williams said, with returning hits like House, Glee, Hawaii 5-O, Survivor and Bones in her pocket.

That’s giving the Global Television team license to buy some anyone’s-guess-whether-they’ll-work rookie dramas and comedies this week, without having to restock the shelves like Canwest Global did a couple years back. 

Of course, recent history suggests that all that Canadian talk about restraint and reserve at the Los Angeles Screenings vanishes at the first sign of blink-of-an-eye deal action on the studio lots.

But Williams, who will be the most experienced deal-maker among the Canadians during their Hollywood shopping expedition this week,  is out to prove she’s more than a survivor.

“There’s a perception that it can all get out of hand down there. I don’t expect it to be out of hand,” she said.


From Playback Daily