Magazine article Variety

Canadian Orders of U.S. Shows Slashed by HOCKEY

Magazine article Variety

Canadian Orders of U.S. Shows Slashed by HOCKEY

Article excerpt

Canada's commercial broadcasters held their annual upfront presentations last week to promote their lineups of new U.S. skeins bought at last month's L.A. Screenings, as well as to show off their new domestic shows, but it was clear that scripted programming had already been cross-checked months earlier by Rogers Communications' landmark deal for rights to National Hockey League games.

Rogers, also a major TV service provider, is betting that live-event programming is the key to growth in a Canadian market that, like the U.S. market, is seeing its subscription numbers level off.

According to Convergence Consulting Group, which publishes the oft-quoted annual "Battle for the North American Couch Potato" report, only 2,000 net new Canadian TV subscribers signed up in 2013 - as opposed to more than 200,000 annually just a couple of years ago.

The 12-year, $5.2 billion deal inked by Rogers with the NHL in November for exclusive domestic broadcast and digital rights pried loose content that, for decades, had been held by pubcaster CBC as part of its top-rated "Hockey Night in Canada" brand.

Rogers' upfront presentation unveiled a hockey-heavy sked that offers Canuck viewers more games than ever, running across multiple platforms and all its media brands, including flagship City network's weekend primetime blocks.

"We have (DVR)-proofed Saturday and Sunday nights on City to become mustsee TV for all Canadians," said Rogers VP of television programming and content Hayden Mindell.

Partly as a result of its live-programming strategy, City's fall schedule includes just four new series - dramas "Scorpion," "Black-ish" and "Backstrom," and reality series "Utopia" - compared with 16 shows last fall.

City's pullback from its reliance on U.S. programming means that, despite what Canadian buyers agreed was a strong year in terms of the quality and execution of pilots, several promising U.S. shows were left unsold in Canada after the Screenings - a change from the past few years, according to CTV programming chief Phil King.

Bell Media's CTV, Canada's top-ranked commercial broadcaster, picked up 11 new U.S. series: dramas "Gotham," "Forever," "The Flash," "How to Get Away With Murder," "Marvel's Agent Carter," "American Crime," "Secrets and Lies," "CSI: Cyber" and "The Mysteries of Laura"; and laffers "The McCarthys" and "The Odd Couple."

King said this year's strategy was for short orders, event series and midseason replacements. …

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