Tuesday, May 27, 2008

CBC UPFRONT FOR 2008

Well, as you know the Americans have had their network TV upfronts, and now it's Canada's turn. The CBC unveiled its fall schedule and most of it consists of holdovers from the season before, including its successful new shows like The Border and Sophie.

The CBC is crowing about how they had such a great season last year and actually beat Global in the ratings. Well, yeah, but that total includes a lot of senior citizens who still watch the CBC out of habit. Among the 18-49 crowd, Global is still ahead. Still, there's no doubt that last season was a good one for the CBC and a terrible one for Global. Of course CTV creamed everyone, but never mind that.

The reason it was a good season for CBC was because their comedy shows like Rick Mercer and Little Mosque on the Prairie were big hits, their new shows like The Border and Sophie stood out as fresh entertainment compared to the reruns on the other channels-- and of course, there was Hockey Night in Canada. They made an increased commitment to regional programming and went populist in a big way with their prime time stuff. And they're letting shows stick around and develop audiences, they aren't trigger-happy over there. I have to say I'm impressed with what they are doing. They are doing exactly what I said they ought to do a couple of years back, when things were in really dire shape over there.

As for Global, well, the writers strike really decimated that channel, more so than for CTV, which at least had American Idol and Canadian Idol to fall back on. Global relied heavily on NBC's "Must See TV" lineup which went belly-up rather quickly during the strike -- The Office was one of the first shows off the air, and the comedies all disappeared pretty quickly. Global took a big hit when House shut down, but the real killer was the loss of 24, which cancelled its whole freaking season because of the strike. That's basically their two biggest hit shows out the window right there. All the animated shows on Sunday night ( Simpsons, Family Guy, etc.) got the boot, too. Global was basically left with a lineup of reruns, game shows and reality shows like Deal or No Deal, Survivor, Celebrity Apprentice, Big Brother and so on. Real junk. No wonder ratings went into the toilet.

They didn't even have any sports to fall back on. 2007-08 was the first season for Global without the NFL, and so all those weekend games that would normally bring in the big ratings were over on CTV. CTV was raking in the ratings for the great Giants-Patriots Super Bowl game, a game that in any other year would have been seen on Global. That's millions of viewers gone right there.

I think that what happened in the ratings was a bit of a fluke and Global should be back up to speed next season with its hit shows back on. Some of CBC's new shows were losing viewers by late in the season, so they may not do so well next year with the lineup they have.

Of course, so many freaking Canadians are complaining about the CBC's whole emphasis on ratings in the first place. People here seem to think the CBC shouldn't be in the business of getting ratings, and that they should just get rid of all the popular programs (including even the hockey games) and just run highbrow stuff that no one will watch. But then people will complain about why they should waste taxpayers' money by funding a service that no one will watch. The CBC just cannot win either way with these people.

I find it interesting that the CBC has to defend itself about scheduling Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune for its early evening lineup. I see no problem with that. They schedule a lot of American shows on the fringes of prime time anyway -- The Simpsons, Arrested Development, Frasier -- which do quite well. Besides, it'll make money for the CBC and save taxpayers from having to shell out more money to bail them out, and people will actually tune in these shows! If you're going to run a TV network, even a public-funded one, it kind of helps if people are actually watching! That's it.

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