CTV executives told a crowded hall of advertisers and media buyers in Toronto yesterday that their strategy for putting together the fall schedule was simple: It was all about amassing quality, not quantity.
At a glitzy gathering at the Hummingbird Centre, CTV presented a 2006-2007 programming slate that included seven new programs from some of television's most prestigious and prolific producers, including Aaron Sorkin and Jerry Bruckheimer. With 18 of the country's top-20 shows, the number-one-rated network was in the enviable position of having very few holes to fill. So executives added a grand total of four new dramas and three new comedies.
The series with the most serious buzz is Sorkin's new drama, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Starring Ottawa-bred Matthew Perry ( Friends) and Bradley Whitford ( The West Wing), it revolves around the backstage politics and romances among the brain trust that creates a popular, late-night sketch-comedy show. Bruckheimer's new offering is a legal thriller called Justice, which stars London, Ont.-born Victor Garber ( Alias) as a member of a team of crack lawyers who tackle the most controversial and newsworthy cases.
"CTV is in good shape and has a very stable, and successful schedule as it is so we didn't expect any surprises," said Doug Checkeris, president and CEO of media buyers The Media Company in Toronto.
The other big-budget dramas CTV will unveil this coming year include Smith, starring Emmy-winning Ray Liotta as a regular family man who also happens to be a master criminal, and The Nine, a series that tracks nine people who are caught in a bank robbery gone wrong and find their lives irrevocably intertwined.
The network, part of Bell Globemedia, parent company also of The Globe and Mail, also announced three new comedies, 30 Rock, starring Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin; The Class from Friends creator David Crane; and Let's Rob, which features cameos by Rolling Stones icon Mick Jagger.
Yesterday, CTV also announced it was launching Canada's first multi-channel on-demand broadband service where viewers can go on-line and download CTV programming on four separate channels -- CTV Shows, CTV News and Docs, eTalk on Broadband, and Discovery Channel on CTV.
Available immediately will be programs such as Corner Gas, Degrassi: The Next Generation, Canadian Idol, the first season of Instant Star and a new teen drama that has been in the can for months called Whistler, which will finally launch June 25 after months of waiting for a time slot to open up.
CTV's chief executive Ivan Fecan told the crowd yesterday the ad-supported CTV Broadband Network will be free to consumers "who want to tap programming on emerging platforms." The broadband service, he added, also "provides a solution to the advertisers who want to reach those consumers." Alas, viewers won't be able to access hit U.S. shows such as Desperate Housewives and Lost, which CTV simulcasts in this country.
CTV's broadband service comes on the heels of similar announcements in the United States. In March, AOL and parent company Time Warner launched In2TV, which will feature hundreds of old shows such as Welcome Back Kotter, Chico & the Man, Growing Pains, Kung Fu and Lois & Clark. The folks at ABC and Disney followed suit, making four of its prime-time shows -- Lost, Commander in Chief, Desperate Housewives and Alias -- free on the network's website in May and June. Disney also launched SoapNetic, a broadband channel that offers daytime shows.
CTV Broadband Network is currently integrated into the CTV website at .
Coming back to its hit-laden slate are shows such as American Idol, Desperate Housewives, Lost, Corner Gas, Grey's Anatomy and Medium -- not to mention ratings stalwarts that make up the CSI and Law & Order franchises.
The network tinkered with its Sunday night prime-time schedule, kicking off with The Amazing Race at 8, followed by Desperate Housewives and the new series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. The popular Grey's Anatomy was moved to Thursday at 8 p.m. where it will lead in to TV's number-one show, CSI, followed by ER.
Bruckheimer's Justice will premiere on CTV in late summer on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. but will give way to Lost when it returns in the fall.
CTV programming president Susanne Boyce said this year marks her network's most ambitious Canadian slate, which will include 11 prime-time Canadian series, 10 original movies and 13 documentaries.
The summer season will kick off with the long-awaited Whistler, a $1-million-plus per episode drama set in British Columbia's resort mountain town. The show is promoted as a combination of "mystery, sex and scandal," built around a mystery over the shocking death of Canadian Olympic gold medalist Beck MacKaye.
Ending the summer run will be another unedited sixth season of The Sopranos. In between will be shows such as Instant Star, comedies So noTORIous, and Alice, I think, as well as a fourth season of Canadian Idol.
The network announced it has ordered second seasons of both Whistler and Jeff Ltd., starring Gemini-award-winning actor Jeff Seymour, a megalomaniac marketing genius.
The upcoming movie titles include Elijah (the story of Elijah Harper, the man who said no to Meech Lake); Shades of Black: The Conrad Black Story; Sticks and Stones, The Terrorist Next Door; and a four-hour miniseries, Would be Kings.
Thirteen documentaries will air in 2006-2007, including The K-Tel Story, Short Guys (which looks at discrimination against the height-challenged), Tabitha's Trip (a dad's struggle to take his daughter across Canada before she loses her sight) and There's Something Out There (the Bigfoot legend).
CTV also announced yesterday two new made-for-mobile video news services with partner Bell Canada. Bell Mobility customers will now have 24-hour access to CTV News and Report on Business television.