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TORONTO (Hollywood Reporter) - Canadian broadcasters are scoring with homegrown fare and U.S. cable series as the Hollywood writers strike sends popular U.S. shows into reruns.
The standoff, now in its third month with no end in sight, has enabled the Movie Central premium pay TV service to lure subscribers with the promise of fresh U.S. cable series, said John Cassaday, CEO of the channel's Corus Entertainment parent.
"We have a number of new (episodes) that were previously prepared that will be coming on stream in the second and third quarter," Cassaday told analysts during a conference call Thursday.
"It does provide an opportunity for those people that are perhaps somewhat frustrated with the lack of new drama content on the networks to move over to Movie Central," he added.
The pay TV service is running episodes of HBO's "The Wire" and "In Treatment" day-and-date with their U.S. release, to be followed in the spring with the season premiers of "Entourage" and "Big Love."
The rival Canadian Broadcasting Corp. is getting traction for its new homegrown series during the strike. The sitcom "Sophie" debuted Wednesday with 630,000 total viewers, according to BBM Nielsen Media Research numbers.
Also Wednesday, the midseason launch of "Little Mosque on the Prairie" drew 804,000 viewers, up from the 750,000 haul for the second-season debut of the popular sitcom about quirky Muslims living in rural Saskatchewan.
The CBC had less success with another new midseason comedy, "jPod," which bowed Tuesday with 472,000 viewers, according to BBM Nielsen Media Research.
But the action-adventure drama "The Border" premiered Monday with 710,000 total viewers, impressive in a market where 1 million viewers amounts to a popular hit series.
CanWest Global Communications Corp. expects to take a ratings hit from the strike as it depends heavily on Hollywood fare to drive the primetime schedules on its two national TV networks here, Global Television and E! Canada.
But the longer the strike goes on, the more the Canadian broadcaster will save on programming costs, according to Kathy Dore, president of Canadian TV at CanWest Global. She said the company has already seen some "slight" savings.
"The longer the strike goes, the real issue gets to be not so much this broadcast year, but how it impacts the next broadcast year," Dore said.
To ease the impact of increased reruns of popular U.S. series on their schedule, CanWest Global and rival CTV are scheduling U.S. reality series and fresh midseason dramas to fill primetime holes.