[UPFRONTS] – LIVE COVERAGE – Murtzcellanious: CanWest Global & E!'s Fall Launch 2007

Everything entertainment.

That’s what the E! network has stood for since its inception in 1987, when it initially launched as Movie Time (a low-budget station that simply aired old movie trailers). In 1990, the network was renamed to E! Entertainment Television and since that time, the station has revolutionized celebrity coverage, emphasizing the latest gossip, news and trends of Hollywood. E! is currently accessed by 88 million subscribers in the U.S. and now is ready to come north of the border.

At Wednesday’s annual Upfront presentation in Toronto, CanWest MediaWorks announced the launch of E! in Canada as well as the E! primetime schedule. In addition, CanWest also announced the Fall primetime line-ups for its Global and TVtropolis networks.

I want to begin by saying that the launch of E! in Canada is something that I have been anticipating for many years. The station is critically-acclaimed for everything it has accomplished in the reality television genre and up to this point, I have only had the capacity to watch the E! brand of programming online. While my cohorts and colleagues raved about Kill Reality and The Soup, I was left to my own devices to figure out how to stay in the loop on ‘everything entertainment.’ Now that Canadians will finally have access to the station, I can say with certainty that the announcement was groundbreaking in its national scope.

The festivities began at 10:30 AM at Massey Hall in Toronto. For our American friends, Global is a Canadian broadcasting network that generally secures the Canadian rights to some of the top American programs in addition to providing its own original programming as well. The E! network is actually a rebrand of another CanWest channel called CH.

The presentation began with a short video spoof from Family Guy, which will air new episodes on the Global network and reruns on TVtropolis, six days a week. The spoof saw Stewie on his deathbed, poking fun of Entertainment Tonight Canada reporter Rick Campanelli. It was a fun way to start the presentation and led nicely to the introduction of my former Entertainment Tonight Canada co-worker and host Cheryl Hickey welcoming the advertisers in attendance. Hickey then threw to the first video package of the morning called The Heroes Of CanWest.

While the video primarily highlighted the network’s top show, it also featured quick spots on 24, Prison Break, The Simpsons, Boston Legal, and Family Guy.

It was then time for the celebrities to start making their appearances and while I thought that it would be difficult for Global to top last year’s appearance by Wentworth Miller, they certainly managed to do it by ushering out Heroes stars Masi Oka and Adrian Pasdar.

“We’ve been asked not to say anything.”

When Hickey asked Pasdar if his character was coming back next season, (after Nathan was seen flying away with his brother who was destined to explode), the actor remained predictably coy and that they have been “asked not to say anything.” Hickey also asked Oka if they are ever pressured to do heroic things in real life and he said that he was happy that they have inspired others to do heroic things.

It was particularly interesting when Cheryl asked Oka about how he worked for Star Wars creator George Lucas as a special-effects wizard before he got his big break. Oka said that Lucas loved Heroes and joked that Lucas told him that he wanted to guest star on the show but “only if he could be a villain and say KILL THEM ALL!”

“We’re more determined than ever to be number one.”

After Oka and Pasdar left, Cheryl introduced the President of CanWest Television, Kathy Dore.

Dore talked a little bit about how ET Canada has become one of the network’s proudest achievements as it is “the number one entertainment news show in the country.”

She also talked about the success Global had with the new shows that it bought last year, highlighting the fact that out of the 12 freshman series returning to primetime this Fall, 8 of them belonged to CanWest. She talked about how the network had 4 out of the Top 10 shows in all of the metered markets and briefly discussed the new shows that would be debuting in the Fall. Dore proudly discussed the biggest financial investment that CanWest has ever made into Canadian content with The Best Years already having debuted and upcoming new Canadian shows including a television take on the popular stage production of ‘Da Kink In My Hair and the upcoming Search and Rescue.

“Huge leap in our evolution.”

Dore then introduced Global National and Global News Hour anchors Kevin Newman and Leslie Roberts. The major announcement coming from the duo was the fact that Global National was taking a “huge leap” in its evolution by moving its base of operations to Ottawa. The change will happen in early 2008.

After another video package (this time focusing on news), it was time to get back to the entertainment portion of the presentation. Clearly, CanWest wanted to focus on the fact that so many of its programs were returning and Cheryl Hickey came back to introduce a video package on all of the returns. The package featured Heroes, The Office, Survivor and Brothers & Sisters.

Cheryl then welcomed Balthazar Getty from Brothers & Sisters to the stage and he answered a couple of questions about the show’s second season.

“The Global schedule has something worth coming back for, hour after hour, day after day.”

Cheryl then introduced Global’s Senior Vice President of Programming & Production, Barb Williams. Williams went through a day-by-day break down of each day in the new Global line-up and said that the schedule had something that was worth coming back for, “hour after hour, day after day.”

She highlighted the network’s dominance on Monday nights as being the anchor for the entire week and basically said that the strategy was to have consistent rating winners supplement one of the new shows that they had picked up. On Thursdays, Canterbury’s Law won’t start until mid-season . The new shows for each day of the week include:

Mondays – Journeyman
Tuesdays – Cane
Wednesdays – Back To You & Life
Thursdays – Canterbury’s Law

Before Barb introduced the Canterbury’s Law video pack, she made way for Cheryl to introduce Sarah Carter from Shark. Nothing much to say.

After some plugs and quick interviews for the new Canadian series that are debuting (‘Da Kink In My Hair) and returning (From The Ground Up), Barb Williams, joined by Global’s Senior Vice-President of Research & Corporate Promotions, Kathy Gardner, began discussing the success of TVtropolis and how the network has been able to expand its weekend audience significantly.

After a TVtropolis video pack, the stage was set for the major E! announcement.

E!

Cheryl kicked things off by introducing a video package that basically introduced the network and what the rebrand of CH would mean.

She then introduced the anchor of E! News and the “face of E!” Ryan Seacrest to offer a proper introduction to the channel.

Seacrest said that when E! launches, it will “combine the best qualities of a conventional network and a specialty channel.” He highlighted the network’s emphasis on specialty unscripted programming and talked about Kid Nation, a show that will debut on the channel and features 40 kids living in an abandoned ghost town for 40 days with no adult supervision!

After a Kid Nation video package, Barb Williams and Kathy Gardner returned to introduce the nuts and bolts of the E! programming strategy.

In lay terms, the plan is to start the 8 PM hour on E! with an unscripted show. This will be followed by new dramas in the 9 PM hour including K-Ville, Bionic Woman, Women’s Murder Club, and Cashmere Mafia.

At 10 PM, E! will have a combination of established hits like Boston Legal and 20/20 interspersed with new programs like Rich Kids: Cattle Drive, Simple Life, Sunset Tan and E! True Hollywood Story.

After the E! programs, Ryan Seacrest came back to talk about the E! Online. This was a subject that I was very interested in as E!’s online entertainment coverage is the best on the internet. Seacrest said that they will be launching a Canadian version of the site that will feature news feeds, mobile offerings including podcasts and an innovative new video service.

After some great banter between Seacrest and ET Canada reporter Rick Campanelli, the Canadian interviewed the members of rock group Shaye who were in the audience. The trio of Kim Stockwood, Damhnait Doyle and Tara MacLean will have their lives taped in a four-part documentary about the moms during the day and rockstars at night called Shaye that will also be part of the E! line-up.

Seacrest then returned to outline E’s daytime line-up and the other programs that will round up the new schedule including E! News, Daily Top 10, Live From The Red Carpet, Style Her Famous and Clean House>

The presentation concluded with Williams and Gardner reviewing the E! schedule again with particular attention being paid to the daytime and weekend line-ups along with a plug for the highly-anticipated musical Viva Laughlin (produced by Hugh Jackman) and Seacrest giving away some free TV’s to advertisers in the audience.

Phew. It was a long day to say the least and this was a particularly exhausting Upfront because it wasn’t just one network introducing their new line-up of shows. It wasn’t just a new network announcing their entire scheduling grid. It was both, with a side of TVtropolis!

If the presentation details seem a little fuzzy, it’s because the Q & A was happening during the presentation so I had to run between the Upfront and making sure I heard what Masi Oka and Ryan Seacrest said to reporters at the same time. Ha, that almost makes it seem like I used my superhero abilities (to be in two places at once) to get you the inside pulse… and I did! I will tell you about how I really used my superhero powers tomorrow when I break down all of the new Global and E! programs. There are tons so be prepared. I am also going to try and get the audio from the Q & A sessions on Monday so that you can hear how Ryan Seacrest responded to my question.

CanWest scored points for their entertaining post-party and definitely for their gift bags. It was a nice touch that was thoughtful while still pushing their programming (with a Bones Season 1 DVD being included) along with press information.

Murtz out.

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