Upfronts 2015: Global hunts for younger viewers

Shaw Media's Christine Shipton on how the channel's new shows will help lower the average age of its primetime audience.
Copied from Playback - Christine Shipton

Global’s superhero-charged lineup, presented to media Wednesday morning in lieu of a splashy upfront, is part of a larger strategy to build upon the channel’s success with dramas while also reaching out to a younger demo, says Christine Shipton, chief creative officer at Shaw Media.

Going into the L.A. Screenings, execs knew they were going to pick up new seasons of established Global hits, such as The Good Wife and The Blacklist, Shipton recalls. But, with an average primetime audience age of 48, Global executives were keen to bring younger viewers to the channel, she explains.

“The idea was, how do we complement [our existing dramas and] how do we boost the big drama strategy – because that is what Global is known for – but at the same time consciously inject a younger audience into our schedule? We know younger audiences like sci-fi and superheroes,” Shipton told Playback Daily.

As such, this year’s Global lineup features several traditional superhero series, such as Supergirl and Heroes Reborn, as well as dramas with a sci-fi spin such as Limitless and Minority Report. The channel is also making a younger demo play by picking up The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and renewing Big Brother Canada for a fourth season. So far, the average age of the audience tuning into Big Brother Canada on Global is 38, Shipton said.

“It’s one of the many reasons why we renewed it. When you got that kind of younger audience coming to the schedule, you can promote to them,” Shipton said.

The broadcaster is also continuing to fill Sunday nights with female-focused programming, building on the success of last year’s strategy of lining up Madam Secretary and The Good Wife on Sunday evenings.

“We looked at the stats and compared how our female shows had done Sundays year-over-year. With having the female[-focused] lineup, we grew the female demos by 18% and the overall ratings grew by 3%, which in this environment, we will take,” Shipton said.

As such, the broadcaster ceded Bob’s Burgers and Family Guy to City but kept The Simpsons at 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Sundays (which Shipton characterized as a strong co-viewing show), followed by Madam Secretary at 8:00 p.m., The Good Wife at 9 p.m. and Bones at 10 p.m. Global also picked up spinoff Chicago Med for mid-season and Jennifer-Lopez starrer Shades of Blue. Shipton says her team doesn’t typically buy big mid-season shows at the Screenings but the move was part of the effort to lock down as many female-focused dramas as it could. 

“[Shades of Blue] is going to be one of those shows that female audiences love, and yet had strong police procedural [elements] for co-viewing,” Shipton explained.

Currently absent from Global’s lineup for 2015/16 is Rookie Blue, the sixth season of which bowed on the channel late last month. Shipton said no decision has been made on whether there will be a season seven of the series.

“I’m not announcing a pickup, but I am saying we are working hard at it,” Shipton said. Other Cancon scripted offerings on the conventional channel for the year ahead are so far limited to The Code and Houdini and Doyle for mid-season.

With the specialty brands in the lifestyle space, Shipton noted the broadcaster is continuing its strategy of working closely with producers and advertising clients to create shows that offer sponsorship or brand integration opportunities.

This year’s lineup of original Canadian productions on the specialty channels include Food Network’s The Incredible Food Race, and sponsored by Walmart, and The House That HGTV Built, which will showcase talent from HGTV Canada as they built a house one viewer will win.

When The House That HGTV Built was announced at Playback and Strategy‘s BCON Expo event in April, executives promoted the show’s suitability for brand partnerships and integrations for shelter-related products.

“It’s not new – we have been working on this for a couple of years – but what I will say is that the pace of the conversations have picked up with the (advertising) clients. Advertising agencies want to be involved in the beginning, they want to know what we have in development,” Shipton explained.

From Playback Daily