Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Degrassi Myth

Is it time to stick a fork in the Degrassi franchise? The teen drama is into its seventh season, drawing 585,000 viewers Monday night on CTV. That's okay for a domestic drama, but below the 650,000 CBC's The Border has been averaging so far and less than half the audience of the show that followed it on CTV Monday night: Corner Gas (1,230,000).
In fact, aside from eTalk at 7 p.m., Degrassi: The Next Generation was by far the lowest rated CTV series of the night, ranking far below Medium (1,158,000), Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (960,000) and Two And A Half Men (850,000). It also ranked behind Global's Entertainment Tonight in the 7:30 timeslot (664,000). This despite the full muscle of the CTV promotional machine ("a shocking two episode premiere"), which drummed up plenty of press attention when the series returned Jan. 10.

True, the teen soap has a loyal and dedicated fan base and always scores with the 12-34 demo. Yet, in terms of total households, except for a few, intensely promoted, "very special episodes of Degrassi", it has never been a ratings hit in Canada and is always among CTV's lowest rated shows of the week. The network has made a 24-episode commitment to it this season, the series' biggest season order ever. With the writers strike derailing so many of CTV's U.S. imports, why not try it out a bit later in the evening? Because, after six years of testing, CTV knows Degrassi will never grow beyond its half million-a-week base. Any other show on its schedule with those kind of numbers would be quickly shipped off to A-channelsville or--worse--CTV's digital Siberia.
One other ratings note: CBC that same Monday night scored 902,000 viewers with fossilized British soap Coronation Street, making it CBC's biggest hit of the night--at 7 p.m.! Maybe Degrassi should spin off old farts Snake and Wheels and have them blather about the good old days at their local pub. The franchise could come full circle--Degrassi Street. Don't rule it out.
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