New season, old woe for Canadian TV networks

Wed Nov 5, 2008 11:37pm EST
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By Etan Vlessing

TORONTO (Hollywood Reporter) - Canada's broadcast networks aren't raising the alarm just yet, but the new fall season has done nothing to stem the loss of primetime viewers.

TV viewership in English-speaking Canada, where U.S. series dominate schedules, is down year-over-year by about 6%, according to market-leading networks CTV and Canwest Broadcasting. But both networks are putting a positive spin on the early returns.

"People should not panic. It's not like (primetime audiences) are down a lot," CTV chief Susanne Boyce said Wednesday.

"We'd have liked it to have grown," echoed Barb Williams, senior vp programing and production at rival Canwest. "The conventional has drifted, but there's both some interest in new shows and pretty solid strength in returning shows."

As in past years, it's returning U.S. series that continue to connect with Canadian viewers. Primetime ratings leader CTV has done its best numbers with simulcasts of ABC series including "Grey's Anatomy" and "Desperate Housewives" and CBS' "CSI," which runs at 8 p.m. Thursdays, an hour before airing in the United States.

Canwest's Global Television, meanwhile, has done well with Fox's "House" on Tuesdays and CBS' "Survivor: Gabon" on Thursdays.

The fall 2008 season here also has turned into a dogfight for younger demos.

CTV insists that it has drawn young viewers away from Global, which touts itself as the hot network in the 18-49 demo, on the strength of a 4% jump for "Grey's Anatomy," a 15% rise for both "CSI" and "CSI: Miami" and a 8% jump for NBC's "ER."   Continued...