How Rogers Media grew its audience in fall 2012

Network programming boss Malcolm Dunlop on how Citytv finished the season up 17% year-on-year in the 25 to 54 demo and with a 5.7% audience share in English TV.

With a boost from Citytv Saskatchewan and Montreal presence with CJNT-TV, Rogers Media has emerged from the Canadian fall 2012 season network battles with the biggest audience share gain.

Increasingly known for its popular sitcoms, Citytv in the last two years aimed to take its place as a near-national TV network, alongside Canadian ratings leader CTV and rival Global Television.

2 Broke Girls

Thanks to bringing over How I Met Your Mother and 2 Broke Girls from the OMNI channels, and returning hits like Modern Family and Revenge, the programming strategy is working.

“We feel we’ve had a plan for a little while, and it’s nice when some of these things bear fruit,” said Malcolm Dunlop, executive vice president of television programming and operations at Rogers Media.

Citytv finished with a 17% audience share rise in the key adult 25 to 54 demo, or an imposing 5.7% of all English TV viewership, when comparing 10 weeks this fall against 10 weeks in fall 2011.

Whose market share did Rogers Media eat into?

CTV and Global Television began the fall 2012 season with larger audiences than Citytv, and finished their campaigns with adult 25 to 54 audience share rises of 3% each, year-on-year.

The real claw back came from the CBC share, which saw its 25 to 54 audience collapse in fall 2012 by 42%, according to the pubcaster, compared to the year-earlier period, thanks in part to the continuing NHL lockout.

Rogers Media added simulcasts on Citytv Saskatchewan and a back-door presence on Montreal CJNT, accounting for 8% of the 17% rise in its 25 to 54 demo share.

Modern Family

The rest comes from programming gains, with Modern Family continuing as a rating juggernaut, 2 Broke Girls breaking out in its sophomore run, and the J.J. Abrams crime thriller Person of Interest finding a male audience for a network that is increasingly female-skewing.

Dunlop says the fall 2012 audience gain came with Citytv as yet without the national coverage of its rivals as it looks for an East Coast presence, or being up-to-speed in Quebec, where the Citytv brand is seeking the go-ahead to enter the Montreal market.

“It’s tough to compare. We think we are building our network. We have the right shows. We’re going after a great demographic. We tend to skew a little younger than our competitors,” he observed.

To be certain, Citytv is still without top-rated shows like The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men and The Amazing Race on CTV, and the Survivor and NCIS franchises on Global.

But a strategy of using returning comedies and dramas like Revenge on Sunday nights as calling cards to underpin network growth is clicking with audiences.

And that comedic snap should help launch upcoming mid-season Canadian sitcoms like Seed and Package Deal.

“That’s what this industry is about. We need to continue to grow our local production, and to have hits in Canada,” Dunlop insisted.

At the same time, Citytv had its misses, including the bromance comedy Partners from the creators of Will & Grace.

The Mindy Project

And while the network has break-out hits in 2 Broke Girls and New Girl that have Hollywood beaming about a comeback for sitcoms, critically-praised Fox freshman comedies like Ben & Kate and The Mindy Project are caught up in industry head-scratching over why the latest crop of US network comedies are underwhelming audiences.

“It’s fair to say, we’re disappointed in the ratings we have with Ben and Kate. But you look at it – and some of the best shows on TV take time to really get an audience – it’s a sweet show,” Dunlop said.

Citytv is also looking for patience from Fox over the Mindy Kaling vehicle, which has recently been retooled.

“We’re very pleased with the results of The Mindy Project. They are doing a lot of work with the supporting cast. Once again, we’re happy with the results,” Dunlop added.

Similarly, the Reba McEntire-starrer Malibu Country just got extra episodes from ABC, but is up against strong competition on Friday night.

Going forward, how the rookie comedies fare will be key to whether Citytv continues to build its brand with audiences and advertisers into 2013 in the face of stiff competition.

For now, though, Dunlop sees his metaphorical glass of water edging ever-higher to the brim.

“From our perspective, in the markets we’re in, we’re quite competitive with CTV and Global,” he insisted.

From Playback Daily