STAR POWER

Cana­dian net­work brings ac­tors to the fans in an at­tempt to boost sag­ging tele­vi­sion rat­ings

Regina Leader-Post - - MOVIES - BILL BRIOUX

If you can’t bring the au­di­ence to the TV show, bring the TV show to the au­di­ence.

That seems to be the strat­egy as Cana­dian tele­vi­sion strug­gles to sur­vive the cur­rent up­heaval in the industry.

This fall, CBC has sent stars from two of its se­ries — Mur­doch Mys­ter­ies and Kim’s Con­ve­nience — to var­i­ous Cana­dian cities in an at­tempt to strengthen con­nec­tions with their view­ers. The live au­di­ence re­sponse has been en­cour­ag­ing. More than 700 fans lined up to see Mur­doch stars Yan­nick Bis­son and He­lene Joy last Sun­day at the Vancouver Po­lice Mu­seum. In the same city, 1,200 peo­ple re­cently jammed a sold-out screen­ing with the cast of Kim’s Con­ve­nience.

For Mur­doch, cater­ing to its loyal fan base is pay­ing off. The Mon­day night drama re­turned to 1,227,000 to­tal view­ers for its 11th sea­son pre­mière.

For all shows made in Canada, it’s is clear that reach­ing out to view­ers has be­come more im­por­tant than ever. The clut­ter of com­pe­ti­tion, es­pe­cially on stream­ing ser­vices is steadily chip­ping away at the broad­cast tele­vi­sion au­di­ence.

The ero­sion seems more ap­par­ent than ever this fall. In English Canada, based on the first three weeks of the sea­son, the to­tal avail­able TV au­di­ence among broad­cast­ers CBC, CTV, City and Global is down eight per cent year-to-year. Among view­ers aged 25 to 54, a de­mo­graphic ad­ver­tis­ers covet the most, the drop is 12 per cent in all day parts, ac­cord­ing to Numeris, which mea­sures tele­vi­sion view­er­ship in Canada.

This mir­rors sim­i­lar de­clines to start this sea­son among Amer­i­can broad­cast­ers. Even NFL view­er­ship has been thrown for a nine per cent loss year-to-year in the United States.

In the U.S., this is the fifth straight yearly de­cline. View­ers have mi­grated by the mil­lions to less ex­pen­sive stream­ing ser­vices such as Net­flix. They are, in turn, “cord cut­ting ” the old link to ca­ble and satel­lite providers. Ac­cord­ing to one re­cent re­port, as much as 22 per cent of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion is now “cord­less.”

The un­usu­ally warm weather in parts of Canada has also likely con­trib­uted to the drop. Some view­ers are sim­ply en­joy­ing the out­doors while they can.

All of these fac­tors are mak­ing the peren­nial chal­lenge of bring­ing Cana­dian con­tent to Cana­dian view­ers even more dif­fi­cult.

For ex­am­ple: Rogers-owned City in­tro­duced the lim­ited run drama Bad Blood in Septem­ber. Boast­ing an all-star cast of Cana­di­ans and Amer­i­cans, in­clud­ing Kim Coates, An­thony LaPaglia, Paul Sorvino and En­rico Colan­toni, the Thurs­day night drama has re­ceived rave re­views from crit­ics.

Overnight rat­ings, how­ever, were dis­ap­point­ing. Bad Blood drew just 209,000 view­ers across Canada in its first week and 216,000 in its sec­ond.

The se­ries, how­ever, saw the pre­mière re­ceive a 31 per cent lift in to­tal au­di­ence once rat­ings gath­ered over a seven-day pe­riod were added.

A sim­i­lar bounce oc­curred for CBC’s new Mon­day night drama Alias Grace. The se­ries, based on a novel by Mar­garet At­wood, launched to 442,000 overnight view­ers on Sept. 25. The to­tal au­di­ence counted over a seven day pe­riod jumped 45 per cent to 636,000 view­ers.

The sec­ond-year com­edy Kim’s Con­ve­nience, which has stiff time slot com­pe­ti­tion up against pop­u­lar im­ports Bull and This is Us, had a so-so overnight tally upon its re­turn: 516,000 view­ers. That au­di­ence jumped nearly 50 per cent to 757,000 view­ers once the PVR and stream­ing num­bers were added, with 43 per cent be­ing in the sought-af­ter 25- to 54-year-old range.

That to­tal num­ber is down from Kim’s av­er­age au­di­ence from a year ago, but so are au­di­ence num­bers for just about every sin­gle show, do­mes­tic or im­port, on every Cana­dian net­work this fall.

Sally Catto, CBC’s gen­eral man­ager of pro­gram­ming, said she’s OK with Cana­di­ans watch­ing im­ports live and Cana­dian shows later on their PVRs.

“It doesn’t mat­ter to me when they watch it,” she says. “I don’t think we can af­ford or ex­pect au­di­ences to tune in any­more just on that old-fash­ioned, lin­ear sched­ule time­line.”

CLAUS AN­DER­SEN

Jean Yoon, left, and Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, who star in Kim’s Con­ve­nience, hit the road to help pro­mote the CBC show.

CBC

Mur­doch Mys­ter­ies star Yan­nick Bis­son has been meet­ing with fans to pro­mote the se­ries.

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