The untold story of the impact of the writers strike in Canada may be the Global effect. Meaning the once mighty Global TV network has slipped behind CBC for third place some nights in Canada.
Now, Global is down but not out. Thursdays are still strong with Survivor Micronesia drawing over 2 million viewers a week plus Celebrity Apprentice adding another million-plus.
But losing even one night a week to CBC (besides Saturday, where Hockey Night in Canada still rules) would have been unthinkable even last year. The strike changed the game but how the two networks strategized through the strike made the difference.
Credit CBC with good planning to go with plenty of luck and timing. While there are no breakout hits (MVP, in particular, has been a ratings disappointment), CBC has had consistent traction with two of its four January starters, well placed opposite strike imposed U.S. reruns on the private networks. Without new episodes of automatic money makers 24, Brothers & Sisters, House and Heroes, Global has been fading fast.
This comes after a lot of hollering from the CanWest network last fall about how it was finally breathing down CTV's neck in the ratings, especially in the prized 18-49 demo and especially in Canada's largest cities. That was before the strike. Since then, it has been hardest hit by the benching of its most valuable U.S. assets, especially Heroes (gone until the fall) and 24 (gone until next January). As mentioned here before, losing NFL football was a big fumble for Global this season, as CTV scored touchdown after touchdown during those crucial strike weeks.
Here's the really bad news: the headache for Global will throb for at least two more months. House isn't due to return with new episodes until April 21. That last new Prison Break? Aired Monday. Uh-oh.
Take a look at this Wednesday night: CTV is dominant across the night, starting with Jeopardy! at 7:30 (1,136,000), then a two hour American Idol (2,466,000) and a still strong in Canada Law & Order at 10 (1,762,000. All figures BBM NMR overnight data).
CBC comes second for the night with the inexplicably addictive Brit soap Coronation Street (719,000) at 7 followed by Marketplace (510,000), Little Mosque on the Prairie (just under 900,000), consistant if unspectacular rookie Sophie (538,000), the fifth estate (462,000), then The CBC News at 10 (889,000).
Now look at Global: Entertainment Tonight Canada (382,000, slipping behind CTV's eTalk despite the run up to the Oscars), a simulcast at 8 of CBS's tepid Big Brother (697,000) then shockingly low numbers for reruns of U.S. comedies The Office (203,000) and My Name is Earl (180,000). At 10, the lights were off for what was probably the last ever episode of Friday Night Lights (142,000).
Let this sink in: the ratings for three of Global's U.S. imports Wednesday night--The Office, My Name is Earl and Friday Night Lights--add up to less than the number of Canadians who watched Sophie the same night.
Consider too that Friday Night Lights was a simulcast of a new episode, a season finale. On Global, it got about half what much-maligned MVP managed on CBC this week. Can you spell "make goods?"
A half-assed strategy to coast through the strike Monday nights with worn out Blockbuster rentals hasn't helped. Neither has a cold hand when it comes to U.S. cable pick ups. Big Love drew big nothing last Thursday, just 275,000 viewers.
Global will try again tonight at 9 p.m. with the debut of NBC's big money game show Amne$ia. It hails from Mark Burnett and features smart ass Dennis Miller as host. Who knows--Deal of No Deal has brought Global briefcases full of cash. But unless something clicks soon, Global programmers will pray for amnesia just to forget this long, brutal winter.