Hollywood strike could hit Canuck TV
TORONTO – Private broadcasters CTV and Global spend a lot of PR dollars heralding the ratings successes of the prime-time American blockbusters that are their top moneymakers – “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Desperate Housewives” and “House” among them.
But there won’t be any new episodes of those fan favourites much past January if Hollywood screenwriters go on strike Wednesday night for a prolonged period of time, a headache for Canadian networks as they try to determine how to fill the potential gaps in their schedules.
Will Canadian audiences be inundated with reruns or the same glut of reality shows that are expected to flood the American networks if the strike drags on? Or will there be a sudden appearance of homemade programming on CTV and Global?
Both private broadcasters said Tuesday they were watching the situation closely.
“We’re talking internally about a range of scenarios – we’re planning for the worst but hoping for the best,” said Mike Cosentino, senior vice-president of program scheduling for CTV. “We’re talking about it, we’re planning for contingencies, we’re hoping that our schedule can remain vibrant.”
Barbara Williams, senior vice-president of programming and production for CanWest MediaWorks, said Global wasn’t overly concerned about the long-term impact of a strike.
“We’re a long way from facing those problems,” she said. “We don’t even know if this strike is going to happen. If it does, we’ll deal with it then and we’ll see how things play out and we’ll make some decisions as we go … first we’ll see what the American networks are doing, but they don’t know either.”
But others suggest a lengthy strike could present golden opportunities for all sorts of players in Canada, from the private broadcasters to CBC and homegrown production companies.
Both Global and CTV have long been criticized for a dearth of homemade programming on their airwaves, and some suggest a long strike could provide them with a captive audience for made-in-Canada shows.
“Gosh, do you think they might actually have to start creating some Canadian product?” Ken Ferguson, head of Toronto Film Studios, a film and television production company, said of Global and CTV.
“This should be an opportunity – it should be the opportunity for Canadians to produce product that would probably find a ready market in the United States as well. But I’ll be pleasantly surprised if any of them do that.”
While Global said it had no plans to trot out any Canadian programming in the event of a prolonged strike, Cosentino said CTV had plenty of Canadian shows that were slated to air in the months to come – from “Degrassi: The Next Generation” to “Robson Arms.”
He added that the network was committed to producing Canadian programming regardless of the strike.
“Is it our intention to run Canadian programming to replace American content? Not exactly. Our strategy with Canadian programming is to run it in the best possible slot we can to deliver it to the right audience,” he said. “The reality is, these shows are going to debut with or without a strike and we’re going to put our muscle behind them anyway.”
For the CBC, a protracted strike could put the public broadcaster in the unusual position of not having to compete every night against new episodes of huge U.S. blockbusters.
“It will be an interesting opportunity for the CBC to not necessarily be up against the American juggernauts,” said Kirstine Layfield, head of programming for the network.
“If their shows get affected by the strike and their inventory dries up a bit, it creates a great opportunity for people to check in with the CBC and see what we have, because whenever people do check in with us lately, they like what they see.”
Layfield also said she’s hearing from Canadian writers and other talent in the U.S. who are pondering a move back home due in part to the strike.
“For a lot of people, it’s just sort of the final straw,” she said. “It’s yet another reason why it might be good to come back home.”
Mary Darling, head of Westwind Pictures, the production company behind the CBC hit “Little Mosque on the Prairie,” says such a reverse brain drain to the north can only be good for the Canadian industry.
“We’ve heard some whispers from some talent down in Los Angeles, people trying to cover their butts who shall remain nameless,” she said.
“This strike could end up spilling a little bit of sparkle dust on the Canadian community. There’s so much Canadian talent down there … there may be some really interesting, wonderful opportunities for Canadian producers as they draw on the experiences of people who have done volumes and volumes and volumes of writing in L.A. who are coming back home and want to stay home.”
If there is a strike, Global and CTV are screwed!!
Hollywood strike could hit Canuck TV