Thursday, March 26, 2009

Fewer Episodes Not the Solution

Details about how the 800 CBC job cuts will impact the English language TV and radio schedules are starting to spill. Check out the latest postings at InsideTheCBC.com.
I heard a few details driving home from an afternoon hockey game while listening to 680News. Fewer episodes of Little Mosque and Being Erica, plus less sports coverage, were a few of the details reaching the air from the town hall meeting held this afternoon.
A release from CBC that went out around 2 p.m. gave a few more details. There will be fewer episodes of The Border, too, as well as This Hour Has 22 Minutes, plus several radio shows are getting the axe. The impact will also be felt at the Fifth Estate and Marketplace, both facing a reduction of staff and resources. There will be less spending on children's television. The sports coverage targeted includes international figure skating, skiing, world aquatics, world athletics and some soccer programs. A couple of one person bureaus are also being shut down, and there will be staff reductions in other smaller centres across the country.
Yesterday I was speaking with my buddy Marc Berman, Mediaweek's "Programming Insider." He was just back from a Manhattan presentation of the ION network (originally PAX), where The Border was a prominent part of the sell. "Looks pretty good," was Berman's assessment.
It is so hard for shows to gain a foothold and a following and an international sale and all these other precarious little parts of the puzzle that is vital to the survival of Canadian television. Most people driving and listening to News Radio reports and hearing about less Little Mosque probably just shrug and think to themselves that that sounds about right. But, damn, when you are making these shows and pushing these rocks up that steep hill that is the Canadian TV industry, anything that cuts down your momentum can be a killer.
The Border has had two 13 episode seasons so far. Cutting it back to, say, nine or 10 cuts a month out of an already short run. Thirteen is already nine less than most hour long TV dramas on U.S. networks. Do you start late and give other shows a chance to steal away viewers? Shorter runs also impact DVD packages, foreign sales and on-line extensions.
CBC should be making more drama episodes a year, not less. Package out more of those 500+ middle managers, for heaven's sake. Cut losses on shows that just aren't clicking and invest more in the ones that are. Challenge the producers to provide some episodes at a lower production cost (although most will tell you they are at bare bones levels already). Some U.S. shows are being forced to do this next season, with cast reductions and rotations being forced on ABC/Disney shows like Brothers & Sisters, for example.
TV is all about keeping the lights on. You can't do anything without the content.
WEDNESDAY NIGHT NUMBERS: Fewer episodes of Being Erica? Sounds like this series will get another chance but 511,000 viewers--half of them outside the 25-54-year-old demo--is not helping the cause. Next week is the season finale.
CBC did even worse last night with a Stars on Ice special at 8. Once a ratings powerhouse, figure skating only drew 485,000 viewers last night, 96,000 in the demo according to overnight estimates from BBM NMR.
CTV was the big winner Wednesday night scoring 2,038,000 for a relocated, two hour, American Idol followed by 1,977,000 for CSI: New York. That total should top 2 million once the CTV "Total" score is added.
Global got outplayed when college basketball coverage in the U.S. forced CBS to bounce Survivor Tocantins ahead a night. Only 1,122,000 tuned in, way down from Survivor's usual Thursday night take. An umpteenth rerun of House managed 501,000 at 9 followed by Life on Mars, which slid to 326,000 viewers.
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