Dispatches from the TV Upfront – Rogers

After attending the Rogers TV Upfront presentation yesterday at Massey Hall, it is clear that Rogers is gunning for second place in the National Network race. They came out firing with jabs at Shaw and talking up their new affiliate markets which will give them a virtually national footprint.

The show started a bit late and saw a few minor glitches with sound, video, a few flat spots with some of the presenters, and some live performances from some Canada’s Got Talent contestants. Rogers head Keith “Always Selling” Pelley, was quick to point out the network’s strengths over the past year; a strong schedule of returning programs, SportsNet ratings wins over TSN, Canada’s Got Talent, their tests with merging their digital and broadcast sales for specific shows (FYI; we did this with CanWest a few years ago…but who’s counting?) and of course, that they had some inventory they could sell after the show.

I wasn’t sure if he was just parodying himself or if he actually can’t stop himself from selling! (LOL)

Rogers’ specialty channels, OLN and FX are not much of a threat to Shaw or Bell Media with generally weak shows, and the stars they brought out didn’t excite the crowd too much.

Their morning program was touted as the best in the city, and they were very proud of the new glitzy set that Dina Pugliesi and Kevin Frankish will get to sit behind in the new season. Dina and Kevin felt like they were trying a tad too hard to be funny.

The returning shows from last year are by far the strongest that Rogers has ever had and they are building audience nicely. They were quick to point out that they managed to have 8 of the 12 (67%) shows they bought in LA last year, survive the axe, while CTV and Shaw fared much worse; about 1/2 of CTVs picks survived while only about 10% of Shaw’s!

Shaw really has their work cut out for themselves this year.

Rogers has a definite youth strategy happening with their new show selection. Many of their shows have been picked up from the CW or Fox, and have youthful 20-something, singles casts. They are betting heavily on comedy and have comedy/sitcoms airing almost every night of the week. Some of their standout shows introduced are The Mindy Project starring Mindy Kailing (one of the stars and writers of The Office), Ben and Kate, and Malibu Country (I think this show skews a bit old but, for some reason, people just love Reba McEntire!_.

Their biggest announcement came in the form of their new daytime talk show that they are hoping to use to grab some of that ‘still-up-in-the-air’ Oprah audience. CityTV will bring Katie Couric to daytime. Katie Couric was in the studio to tell everyone how much she likes to listen to people and how much of a people person she is…apparently she is “the most people person person”, she knows. (Oh yes, she said it!_.

Rogers also has some very interesting dramas coming this fall. Obviously Revenge is back (which they’ve moved to Sunday night to try and grab any leftover Desperate Housewives audience) and they are introducing a horror show, 666 Park Ave, which looks spooky and stars Vanessa Williams (fresh off of Desperate Housewives – see a pattern?_.

Another interesting 20-Something drama coming to City is the Carrie Diaries, a prequel to Sex in the City, set in the eighties with all the period music and fashions (clearly aimed at people who did not have to suffer through the 80’s and think of it as a cool time!_.

One other drama, Revolution, seems to be trying to capitalize on the popularity of the Hunger Games with a Katniss lookalike in the lead role of a show about a dystopian future, where all technology has been lost.

 I expect Rogers’ big nights will be Wednesdays, Mondays and Sundays (in that order_. Big comedy night on Wednesday with Modern Family anchoring the evening and Mondays also offer up comedy with 2 Broke Girls anchoring while Sundays have drama with Revenge followed by the scary 666 Park Ave.

I expect the Shaw upfront to be very offensive minded. They have a lot to answer for with so many flops this past year. The new management team hasn’t hit their stride with the broadcast properties yet, and they have left the door wide open for Rogers to jump into the number 2 network spot.

CTV just needs to defend and introduce a few new shows to capture some of the audience lost from the some of the series that ended this year.

Overall, the Rogers Upfront show was not too slick with only a few big stars (owing to the fact that City only picked up about 8 new shows_. While it started late, they got everyone out before 4:30 so folks could get over to The Hard Rock Cafe for drinks. Smart move.

I’d give the production a 7.5 out of 10. I’m expecting big things from Shaw and Bell Media!