If you're not much of a sports fan and have grown tired of ubiquitous sitcom reruns, Shaw Media wants your attention.
The company that owns Global Television and a huge stable of lifestyle-themed specialty channels is pushing new dramas into the 10 p.m. slot on weeknights and prime time on Sunday evening in an effort to snatch new viewers as competitors reorient their strategies to fit with hockey broadcasts.
Sunday nights this fall will cater more to sports fans with Rogers Communications Inc. adding hockey broadcasts to its Sportsnet and City networks after snapping up 12 years of NHL rights in a $5.2-billion deal last fall, and those games will air alongside the returning Sunday Night Football contests.
Shaw sees those two times as ripe for targeting programming at women – a demographic the company openly caters to. Sundays will feature a new political drama, Madam Secretary starring Téa Leoni as U.S. Secretary of State, followed by The Good Wife, which returns for another season.
"It made a big opportunity for us to step into a more female lineup on Sunday night." said Barb Williams, senior vice president of content for Shaw.
At the same time, City has announced it will strip a pair of half-hour comedies – 2 Broke Girls and Two and a Half Men – starting at 10 p.m. on weeknights, and Shaw wants to step into the void and lure viewers looking for nighttime dramas to Global.
Of eight new dramas to air on Global, those programmed at the tail end of prime time will be State of Affairs, a CIA thriller starring Katherine Heigl, Stalker, a creepy, make-you-jump show playing up the psychological strain of being stalked, and the DC Comics-inspired Constantine, which casts Matt Ryan of Criminal Minds as a demon-fighting supernatural detective.
Global will lead into its Sunday night lineup with Mulaney, a new comedy about a standup comic whose career is on the rise, starring John Mulaney of Saturday Night Live fame.
The network's dial is heavy with U.S.-produced content, but Canadian shows are anchored by returning dramas Remedy and Rookie Blue, as well as Big Brother Canada, which moves to Global after drawing 1.1 million viewers to last season's finale on the small specialty channel Slice.
Shaw's specialty networks are adding 50 new titles to 90 returning shows, and perhaps the most prominent new arrival will be Outlander, a series airing on Showcase and based on best-selling books by Diana Gabaldon. HISTORY will air Houdini, a four-hour mini-series about the life of the famed magician starring Adrien Brody in the title role.
The usual stable of reality-based programming returns to channels such as HGTV Canada and Food Network Canada, including new do-it-yourself shows such as Reno Rookies, starring ex-CFL football player Sebastian Clovis.
Or, if the lines between scripted and reality television weren't already blurry enough, there is Un-Real, a scripted drama about a staffer working on a reality dating show in the mould of The Bachelor, whose job is to pull strings and manipulate contestants. "It hits pretty close to home," Williams said at a press conference on Wednesday.
Shaw will also rebrand a pair of its specialty networks. This fall, Twist TV becomes FYI, a channel now aimed at millennial, socially-connected viewers which describes itself as "a network about improvised living." And in December, Mystery TV is being reinvented as Crime + Investigation, or CI, which will feature behind-the-scenes looks at crime stories and invites viewers to "join the investigation."