This is my third year at the Shaw Media upfronts. If you don’t believe me, here are the scalps from 2010 and 2011. This year, as in 2010, there are two parts to Shaw Media’s upfront. The executive and talent sessions take place in the morning, at the Trump International Hotel and Tower. The presentation is held in the Elgin Theatre. Both the sessions and presentation are held in Toronto.
Shaw Media goes into 2012-13 with a few high-performing Canadian scripted shows. Rookie Blue is in its third season, while Bomb Girls is set for a second season. Lost Girl does well in its natural habitat, Showcase.
Among other Showcase shows, King struggles in its second season. It’s too early to tell what happens to Continuum, but its first-episode ratings hit with the force of at least two Lost Girls. Endgame is a dark-horse candidate to return, thanks to Hulu. Given Shaw Media’s string of homegrown successes, I go into Shaw Media’s 2012 upfronts with a positive outlook.
A big announcement for Shaw Media is the addition of two new channels, H2 and Lifetime. These are part of the A+E Networks stable of channels. The morning press releases reveal the return of Global Toronto’s News at Noon, more news overall, and new Canadian dramas…on Showcase and other specialties. Also, History Television will assume its distaff American cousin’s branding.
The Cave, Showcase Diva, and Global Reality Channel aren’t mentioned in the upfront press materials. Showcase Diva slips on the Lifetime branding this fall. Global Reality Channel was heavily featured in the 2010 upfronts, and doesn’t even have its own catered cookie this year. As for The Cave, it exists, but for how much longer?
Canadian content on Global this fall includes newsmagazine 16X9, POV documentary newcomer Close Up, something called “Canadian Documentary,” and Recipe to Riches. Aside from 16X9, which airs Friday at 10:00 PM ET/PT, every Canadian show on Global’s fall schedule airs Saturday night.
Crimetime Saturday is the only non-Canadian primetime Saturday offering, and it’s…reruns of crime dramas. Is Global introducing its version of the CBS block? If so, why?
During the executive and talent sessions, my mind tunes out around the time Ricki Lake sells her new talk show as the “old Oprah,” which could mean anything – even the old Ricki Lake. At the time LL Cool J sells the media on NCIS: Los Angeles, I’m busy trying out Google Voice for the first time.
In the afternoon, the Elgin Theatre plays host to the presentation itself. The presentation is more ornate than usual, but when the big reveal is Big Brother Canada, it’s a bit underwhelming.
Reality programming is Shaw Media’s format of choice, and is well-represented on Slice, History, HGTV and Food Network. Shaw Media favours this format – it’s cheap, can air across multiple channels, and allows Shaw Media to claim a large amount of Canadian content. At the same time, Showcase has a couple of hit originals (Lost Girl, Haven.) A few of Global’s originals (Rookie Blue, Combat Hospital, Bomb Girls) regularly earned at least one million viewers in 2011-12. Does a higher number of returning shows mean a reduction in new ones?
Shaw Media is involved with Showcase/BBC America’s Copper, and Showcase/ReelzChannel’s World Without End. Copper is from Canadian companies, yet is American in scope. World Without End is a sequel to Starz/The Movie Network/Movie Central’s The Pillars of the Earth, and is a Germany/Canada co-production. The two new major Canadian dramas, and they’re co-productions on a specialty channel. Weird.
Shaw Media’s overall strategy is the same as it ever is, aside from the heavier focus on news and documentary programming. Shaw Media also takes a page from Corus Entertainment, slapping American trademarks on existing Canadian channels. I don’t have a problem with Canadian program services airing American shows, but one of Shaw Media’s main priorities is Ricki Lake. There’s something disconcerting about that.
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