Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Canadian Network Upfronts - June 2, 2007



Talking the talk

Ah, June! It's that time of year when Canada's
TV networks love to forget past blunders
and invite advertisers to bank on the future.

By Eric Kohanik

There’s nothing like the sweet smell of the first week of June in the Canadian TV business. 

It’s that time of year when Canadian TV networks like to forget what sort of screw-ups they were last season and, instead, focus everyone’s attention on how brilliant they’re going to be in the TV season that lies ahead.

American networks have already done that. They spent the middle of May assembling and announcing their new fall schedules. They trotted out their lineups and stars for advertisers and the media at their splashy “Upfront” presentations in New York City.

This week, it will be the Canadian networks taking their turn in Toronto.

Some have already jumped the gun. Convinced that it absolutely has to be the first kid on the block to break the news every year, CBC showed off its fall programming plans – such as they are – last Tuesday. 

Meanwhile, network executives from CTV, Global, CHUM Television and other Canadian TV outlets were still recovering from having spent the previous week-and-a-half in Los Angeles at the L.A. Screenings. That’s the annual feeding frenzy that has program buyers from around the world wheeling and dealing to buy American TV shows.

This practice is particularly important for most Canadian TV channels because they would much rather rake in huge profits by buying and airing new American shows than flush their money away on developing new Canadian ones. It’s a shame, really.

Anyway, Canadian networks pay only a fraction of what NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox and The CW dish out on licence fees for the same shows. Still, big American shows cost big American dollars. But that’s OK, because those big American shows haul in even bigger Canadian advertising bucks. And so, the final days of the L.A. Screenings are a tense and hectic exercise for Canadian TV execs as they jockey to assemble the best lineup of American shows possible. 

This week, Canadian broadcasters will show off the results of their L.A. spending sprees at big presentations meant to convince ad buyers that their money would really be much better spent with one particular network rather than any of the others.

Never mind that the past season was disastrous in so many ways. Or that most of last year’s new shows failed. It’s time to start all over again. The future is all that matters. 

Oh, and sign right here.

The chief rivals in these dog-and-pony shows are CTV (which does its big thing Monday) and Global (which follows suit Wednesday). They’ll each put the best spin they can on what they’ve got for next season. They’ll ply advertisers with food, booze, door prizes and, in some cases, even money.

It’s all part of talking the talk. And part of that sweet smell that fills the Canadian TV business every June.