Out with the E!, in with the new at Canwest upfront

June 03, 2009  |  Matt Semansky  |  Comments

Canwest executive Barbara Williams discussed her company’s intention to divest itself of its E! Network stations, as well as new looks for its Showcase specialty channels at today’s Canwest upfront presentation in Toronto.

The media company also revealed the fall programming schedule for both its Global network and its slew of specialty stations. However, no programming announcements were made concerning E!, which Canwest has licensed from the U.S. network of the same name and operated in Canada since 2007.

In a question-and-answer session following her presentation, Williams, executive vice-president, content for Canwest Broadcasting, confirmed that the company does not plan to continue operating its E! stations.

“Clearly, we’ve made a strategic decision at the company that running one conventional network is the way to go,” said Williams. “We will not be running those E! stations come fall.”

Williams’ remarks follow statements made by Canwest president and CEO Leonard Asper earlier this year indicating that the company would pursue several options to rid itself of the E! stations, including a sale. Today, Williams declined to say whether Canwest was close to finding a buyer.

Williams also announced that Showcase and its sister specialty stations, Showcase Diva and Showcase Action, would receive a brand makeover prior to the fall season. Canwest will launch a major promotional campaign in mid-August to introduce Showcase’s new logo and on-air look, a marketing initiative that will include radio, print, online and out-of-home creative.

“We saw an opportunity to refresh [Showcase] and put a bit of a new attitude out there,” said Williams, adding the station would further emphasize “bold” programming.

Showcase Diva will also debut a “refreshed” logo and on-air look this fall, while Showcase Action will be rebranded as Action.

“Action’s busting out on its own,” said Williams. “We really felt that Action was ready to stand on its own.”

Williams began her presentation of Global’s fall schedule by noting that it was the most stable and reliable programming slate the network had offered in several years.

That lineup includes several new series purchased from U.S. networks, including CBS dramas NCIS: Los Angeles and The Good Wife, CW’s Melrose Place reboot and Fox’s Family Guy spinoff The Cleveland Show and musical-comedy Glee.

Another Fox comedy, Sons of Tuscon, is slated to debut mid-season.

The new arrivals join a Global schedule that includes returning dramas such as House, Heroes, Brothers & Sisters, NCIS, 90210 and the Canadian production The Guard, as well as comedies The Office, The Simpsons, Family Guy and King of the Hill.

Reality show Survivor also returns for its 19th season this fall, while the drama 24 reappears in mid-season.

Williams said Global’s lineup of female-skewing dramas would match up well with competitors in the 10 p.m. timeslot, noting that competitors’ offerings in that position lean toward reality programming and entries such as the new Jay Leno Show that are expected to hold greater appeal for men.

Williams also unveiled new and returning programs for Canwest’s specialty channels, which include the Showcase stations, the Food Network and History Television.

Showcase’s schedule includes the new programs Crash & Burn and The Foundation, as well as the first four seasons of Bones, a drama whose fifth season is part of Global’s fall lineup.

History will be home to Expedition Africa, the latest offering from reality television mogul Mark Burnett, along with the Canadian reality show Ice Pilots NWT. History will also air the 2008 HBO mini-series John Adams.

HGTV welcomes Holmes Inspection, a new series starring home renovation guru Mike Holmes, as well as the reality show Realtor Vs. Realtor, while Food Network offers up the Canadian premieres of Chopped, Guy Off the Hook and Top Chef Masters.

The rebranded Action adds reality show Black Gold and the first two seasons of Swat USA to its lineup, while TVtropolis serves up world premieres for TV With TV’s Jonathan Torrens and Killer Comebacks.

Canwest specialty stations Slice, IFC, MovieTime, Mystery TV, Discovery Health Channel, BBC Canada, Deja View, Showcase Diva and National Geographic channel will also debut new programming this fall.

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