[Upfronts] – Murtzcellanious: CTV's Fall Launch

Surprises, smiles and selling were the order of the day as Canadian television network, CTV announced its Fall 2006 primetime schedule yesterday afternoon at the annual Upfront Presentation in Toronto.

I attended the festivities with Matt Romanada and here’s what we saw, learned and ate in our attempt to get the Inside Pulse on CTV’s new sked.

The presentation began at 4:10 PM Eastern, and started with a package of all of the CTV hit shows. For our American friends, CTV is a Canadian broadcaster that generally secures the Canadian rights to some of top American programs in addition to providing original content. Currently, CTV owns the Canadian rights to hits including Lost, Desperate Housewives, Criminal Minds and Grey’s Anatomy. The initial video package focused specifically on these shows highlighting Grey’s in particular. Notable quotes were featured and the entire package was set to the music of “The Way You Move.”

“Television has never been stronger…”

Rita Fabian, CTV’s Senior Vice-President of Marketing came out and thanked advertisers for their business and said that “television has never been stronger.” Fabian said that people (Canadians, 25-54) are collectively watching five more hours of television per week than last year. People in the key advertising demographic of 18-34 are also watching three more hours per week. In something that I found interesting, Fabian talked about the misconception that people are watching less television with the advent of the internet. In fact, Canadians are watching more than ever.

As Inside Pulse’s numbers can attest to, Grey’s Anatomy is undoubtedly the hottest show on television right now, and CTV really focused on the rise of this show in particular at its presentation. Announced at last year’s upfront, Grey’s is clearly the jewel of CTV and no bones about this were made on Monday. After Fabian’s speech, a cute vignette was played featuring Dr. Bailey (Chandra Wilson) and CTV execs Susanne Boyce (President of Programming) and Ivan Fecan (Bell Globemedia President and CEO). This was funny because it showed the pair in need of an operation and many TV exec jokes. The best included lines like “now I know why your medical care is free” (referring to Canada’s free healthcare system) and “a Global guy stole our surveillance tape” (referring to the network’s top competitor).

“No One Even Comes Close”

Ivan Fecan spoke next and talks about how every launch brings new opportunity with it. He said that the new schedule was a “powerhouse” and “stable.” He also referred to the fact that CTV is the nation’s top network and guaranteed that it would repeat as champion. Fecan discussed the idea that for a network to remain on top, it needs to have more than 1-2 hit shows. He said that CTV beat Global every night in the 18-34 demographic.

Fecan elaborated on CTV’s top four shows, including Desperate Housewives, Lost, Grey’s Anatomy and CSI. He said that the network had 18 out of the country’s top 20 shows. “No one even comes close,” said Fecan.

Finally, Bell Globemedia’s CEO discussed launching Phase One of the CTV Broadband Network, Canada’s first multi-channel, on-demand broadband service. This will allow for the streaming of CTV programs online and allow mobile access.

Rick Brace, CTV’s President came out to introduce the network’s coverage of the 2010 Vancouver and 2012 London Olympics, and even though advertising space cannot be sold until next year, a short preview clip was played.

Surprise

Brace then made an enormous surprise announcement. Namely, that Brian Williams, would be joining the network. Brian Williams, formerly of CBC, was the face of that network’s Olympic coverage and now would be joining one of its chief competitors. Williams said that he was “excited to be building an Olympic unit from the ground-up.”

Programming

Susanne Boyce then came out and introduced another clip package, featuring memorable moments from its top shows. One of the highlights included Meredith telling McDreamy to “choose me, pick me, love me.” The package ended with the tagline of “Great Moments Are Why Canada Is Watching.”

Boyce talked about how Canadian Idol is the summer’s most watched show and also went on at length about CTV’s coverage of the Live 8 concert. She said that 10.5 million Canadians watched the concert and that CTV was the only network that managed to secure live feeds from all of the concerts around the world.

No upfront would be complete without the actual announcement of the shows and Matt Romanada has the new schedule covered.

As each day’s lineup was introduced, stars were paraded out.

These included:

– The cast of Whistler (new show that will also be broadcast on The N Network in the U.S.)
– Victor Garber (Justice)
– James Pickens Jr. (Grey’s Anatomy) and Kelly Rowan (The O.C.), who shared a particularly great moment when they talked about how their shows will be competing in the U.S., but not in Canada (since The O.C. will air at 7 PM and Grey’s Anatomy will air at 8 PM).
– Brendan Fehr of CSI Miami
– BJ and Tyler, the winners of the Amazing Race
– Stephen Culp and Matthew Bomer (Traveler)
– Kristen Vangsness (Criminal Minds)
– Jon Bernthal, Lizzy Caplan, Jesse Tyler Ferguson (The Class)

Stay tuned for Matt’s interviews with some of the above.

After the presentation, Matt and I embarked on the party, and a more appropriate adjective would be parties. Four rooms were set-up including:

– The Main Lobby
– Bree’s Wine Bar (set up in tribute to the troubled mother from Wisteria Lane, with all of the servers wearing Marcia Cross’ famous sweater/skirt combo)
– Grey’s Anatomy (where all the servers wore doctor and nurse outfits, Bloody Mary transfusions were the order of the day and Kardinal Offishall was the MC)
– Idol Lounge (where Canadian Idols Aaron Walpole, Suzi Rawn, Gary Beals, Shane Wiebe and Ryan Malcolm performed)

Food included prime rib sandwiches, gourmet burgers, dumplings and other five-star delicacies.

I have been fortunate enough to attend many parties in my life (most recently the world’s first-ever Reality TV Convention in Nashville, Tennessee) and I can say without equivocation, that this was one of the best that I have ever been to. The theme rooms were outstanding as was the food. While I certainly stole the show in my blue suit and matching Bluetooth combination, this venue certainly emphasized good programming, good-looking people, and good times.

And for those of you saying, ‘why Murtz, what shows are you looking forward to?:’

Shows That Murtz Is Looking Forward To

– Traveler. I think this show has a lot of possibilities. I have always liked Stephen Culp and the preview for this looked hot. It’s basically about three friends that are kidding around in a museum, when one of them decides to blow it up. Turns out, he is a terrorist and has set-up his buddies. It’s not so much the plot of the show that intrigues me, it is its hidden premise. How well do you really know your friends? For all I know, Romanada likes celery.

– Whistler. Usually Canadian shows are always looked down upon as not being on the level of American ones. It’s like the Degrassi versus The O.C. But I don’t think this will be a problem for Whistler. The show is about the body of an Olympic gold medalist being found in the Rocky Mountains. The entire show is one big mystery and the preview involved a lot of sex and deceit. You don’t have to be the world’s foremost reality television expert (as I am) to know that this combination ALWAYS works on TV.

Anyway, that’s it for me, but certainly not it for Inside Pulse’s Upfront Coverage. Stay tuned for Matt Romanada’s interviews with the stars.

Don’t forget to also check out Matt’s coverage of CTV’s new programming grid.