Canadian networks pondering which new U.S. shows to acquire | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Canadian networks pondering which new U.S. shows to acquire

Matt LeBlanc arrives at the Summer TCA CBS, CW, Showtime Party at Pacific Design Center on Monday, Aug. 10, 2015, in West Hollywood, Calif. Former "Friends" star LeBlanc heads the family comedy "Man with a Plan," in this fall's television lineup. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ AP/Photo by Rich Fury/Invision/AP
May 19, 2016 - 10:41 AM

Where will Canada's most-watched TV shows come from next fall? From America, of course.

ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, along with The CW, have all just held their lavish "upfronts" in New York. That's where they present the new shows they hope will become hits, leading to billions of dollars in advertising revenues. Watching closely: advertisers and Canadian show buyers.

Viewers have just said goodbye to cancelled shows, including "Nashville," "Castle," "Agent Carter," "CSI: Cyber," The Muppets," "Grandfathered" and "Grinder."

They'll soon say hello to familiar faces in new shows.

Kiefer Sutherland will return in the ABC White House drama "Designated Survivor." Former "Friends" star Matt LeBlanc heads the family comedy "Man with a Plan." Kevin James will play a retired policeman in "Kevin Can Wait" and Michael Weatherly leaves "NCIS" for the Dr. Phil McGraw inspired law drama "Bull."

The trend toward remakes and movie makeovers is stronger than ever this year. Look for a new version of "MacGyver" as well as reboots of decades-old film franchises "Lethal Weapon" and "The Exorcist" (featuring Geena Davis).

Why do networks keep trotting out familiar faces and old ideas? In a word, money. Networks don't have to put as much marketing muscle behind brands people know. Plus, they already own the rights.

"When you have an IP (intellectual Property) like 'MacGyver,' you want to put it on the air," explained CBS programming boss Glenn Geller. It's a line which sums up — as critic Alan Sepinwall noted —"this entire development season philosophy."

Audiences, however, aren't always clamouring for seen-it-before. Do people even remember that ABC tried to bring back "Uncle Buck" last fall, or NBC's "Heroes"? Viewers avoided "Rush Hour" this spring. The reboot of "The X-Files" still hasn't led to more episodes, although Fox says they could still be "out there."

As the Americans announce their fall lineups, Canadian network executives are lining up to buy them. (Except for CBC, which just announced a new slate of homegrown series including "Caught" starring "Republic of Doyle" lead Allan Hawco as well as the return of "X Company" and "The Romeo Section.")

This week, Canadian private-network executives are in Hollywood screening rooms checking out pilot episodes. Their job is to bring back the next big hit or two. It will cost Bell/CTV, Corus/Global and Rogers/City a total of as much as US$700 million to place their bets.

Spending all that money at a casino might be a safer investment. Some top-rated American shows — such as Fox's "Empire," the biggest U.S. broadcast hit in years — simply do not connect with Canadian audiences.

Canadian network buyers can also get blindsided by last-minute scheduling changes. Global thought they had the next big winner last season with "Supergirl." After less-than-super ratings, CBS passed on renewal. The CW — half owned by CBS — picked it up for fall where it will join comic-book kin "Arrow" and "The Flash." (This is also good news for Vancouver, the show's new production base.)

This is kryptonite, however, for Global. They lose all those CBS "Supergirl" viewers they were counting on in Canada due to simulcast substitution (where the American cross-border affiliate feed is replaced by the Canadian network feed, thus boosting viewing numbers and ad revenues).

It was already bad enough that Global has to replace "The Good Wife" and try to adjust their schedule now that CBS has relocated "NCIS: Los Angeles" and "Madam Secretary.

Is it finally enough to make a Canadian private network rethink this imported-shows business model and start creating and owning their own fare in the fall? Don't bet on it.

This year, there is one show where the odds are in the buyer's favour: the relaunch of "Star Trek." CBS has made all the right moves, hiring the creative team behind the original as well as "Star Trek: The Next Generation" to mount the new sci-fi adventure.

CBS will premiere it next January, and then use it to anchor the new streaming service CBS All Access. This means that the Canadian network that buys it can count on a big opening, a guaranteed full season's worth of episodes and the freedom to schedule it whenever they want.

The kicker: it is being shot in Toronto. As Captain Picard would say, "engage."

— Bill Brioux is a freelance TV columnist based in Brampton, Ont.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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