Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Recapping the Canadian TV Upfronts

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Recapping the Canadian TV Upfronts

Article excerpt

Recapping the Canadian TV upfronts


TORONTO - If you think the Stanley Cup final is war, try the Canadian TV upfronts.

Rogers, Shaw and Bell each hosted press previews of their 2015-16 lineups this week in Toronto. CBC held their new season showcase last week. The media companies wine and dine advertisers in hopes they'll sell them commercial time "upfront" of the new seasons.

Media companies are hustling to stay one step ahead of the digital revolution. Still, the old fashioned Canadian TV game of importing and simulcasting American content -- as well as producing the occasional Canadian show -- goes on as usual.

The competition for content -- and bragging rights -- remains fierce. This was most evident in duelling releases sent out this week by Bell and Rogers, with both claiming to own the nation's No. 1 sports brands. Bell says the ratings back their claim that more Canadians watch TSN than Sportsnet. Rogers says if you add up all the viewing on the multiple Sportsnet and TSN channels, they drew the lion's share.

Beyond the trash talk, some significant programming moves were announced this week.

Sunday remains a big battleground. Last season, Rogers thought a third night of NHL action would help them bodycheck their way into the competitive mix. Instead, early games left holes on City's Vancouver schedule. NFL football on CTV and TSN was often outdrawing "Hometown Hockey" on City. Rogers found viewers who got their NHL fix on Fridays and Saturdays were not about to abandon "The Walking Dead," "Game of Thrones," "Downton Abbey" and Netflix fare on Sundays.

Rogers programming vice-president Hayden Mindell leapt at a proven content fix. He picked up two animated Fox comedies that Global had more or less discarded -- "Family Guy" and "Bob's Burgers" -- and plugged them into his Sunday schedule. He paired them with the Winnipeg-based Canadian sketch comedy "Sunnyside" and a comedy no one in Canada bought when it premiered in the U.S. this past winter: "The Last Man on Earth."

Mindell's challenge will be to exploit the hot property Rogers stumbled onto last season, Fox's No. 1 hit "Empire." Last year, Rogers had it buried on OMNI stations and even this fall on City it won't be in simulcast. …

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