Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hot in Cleveland Dark in Canada

Bad news, Canada. No, not about that silly Fox News North thing. No, this is about a U.S. TV export we're not getting--Betty White's new sitcom Hot In Cleveland.
The sitcom, which also stars Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves and Wendy Malick, premieres tonight at 9 p.m. on the original, U.S. version of TVLand. So far, the reviews have been generally favourable.
It sounds like a TV addict's dream. White--feeling more love than ever after that SNL triumph--stars as landlady to three happenin' friends from LA who decide to make the Cleveland scene (Bertinelli, Leeves and Malick). Dozens of other TV favourites will get in on the fun with guest appearances, including Wayne Knight, Shirley Knight, Hal Linden, Susan Lucci, Juliet Mills, Carl Reiner, John Schneider and Amy Yasbeck.
The TVLand original sounds like just the kind of next step programming a progressive nostalgia network should offer subscribers, a reward, if you will, for sitting through the oldies.
Except in Canada. The Canadian version of TVLand, owned by CTV, is not premiering it tonight and apparently has no plans to add it anytime this year.
If you look at the Canadian TVLand schedule, you'll find plenty of other TV goodies that are missing. The U.S. TVLand, an MTV network owned by Viacom, offers many TV classics: Bewitched, The Beverly Hillbillies and The Brady Bunch just in the "B"s, plus I Love Lucy, Green Acres, M*A*S*H and Star Trek. They even have The A-Team.
The Canadian TVLand? While they do have The Andy Griffith Show, Happy Days and Hart to Hart, there are also reruns of Ready or Not, The Hilarious House of Frightenstein and Bizarre. Cancon, sure, happy to see Steve Smith pick up a residual for Red Green. But where are the classic American sitcoms so associated with the TVLand brand?
TVLand was one of those "forbidden fruit" U.S. cable offerings that used to seem so tantalizing before it crossed into Canada. (The Craig's snuck it across the border first, in 2001, then CHUM owned it for a while and now CTV operate it).
With cable and DTH subscription revenues plateauing around the $3 million mark, CTV has figured out that it can keep it humming with B- and C-level sitcom reruns at a tidy profit. By spending less than $1.3 million on program acquisitions (and nothing on creating content), CTV made nearly $1.3 million in TVLand profit in 2009 according to the CRTC specialty network statistical and financial summaries. The more than 40% operating profit came after a 30% reduction in program spending over the year before.
Bottom line if you are a Canadian media company trying to get over an Olympic-sized hangover: why spend money on Betty White`s new sitcom? The suckers keep paying even if the lights are barely on.
It‘s sort of like how Mr. Drucker or Mr. Haney used to pull one over on Oliver Wendell Douglas on Green Acres all the time.
Meanwhile, you can‘t even watch clips of Hot in Cleveland on the U.S. TVLand web site--they`re geoblocked in Canada, even though the series is not available to us over the air.
TV Land Canada‘s slogan by the way is “satisfaction guaranteed.” I want my money back.
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