Olympic Cash Crunch Crushes Canadian Idol

CTV has announced it is “resting” Canadian Idol for a year. Also “resting”: Van Johnson, Bettie Page and Mr. Blackwell.
Seen napping: Paul Newman. Looking a little sleepy lately: Ted Rogers.
CTV should just be honest with the fans and admit it: Canadian Idol has been canceled. Canada is karaoked out. The talent pool, as seen by last September’s entirely forgettable all-male final four, has been drained. Judging by what was being said on Toronto talk radio this morning, people are done being assaulted by Ben Mulroney. Last season was always going to be it for Canadian Idol, as I argued in a Toronto Star article last June.
The series sunk to its worst season ever last summer, and the finale didn’t even win its timeslot. Only 488,000 across Canada in the 18-49-year-old demo watched last September’s finale, about a third of the total for the second Canadian Idol. The series was turned off a long time ago in big Canadian cities like Toronto and Montreal.
Each week’s live extravaganza was an expensive show to produce, with big name guests like Mariah Carey being airlifted in and cross country auditions held every winter in at least 10 Canadian cities. The tip off that Canadian Idol was toast came about a week ago when the usual mid-season CTV release promoting all the January shows gave no mention whatsoever of the next round of Idol auditions.
CTV has a new home grown talent hunt winner in So You Think You Can Dance Canada, one that is not produced by John Brunton’s Insight Productions, as is Canadian Idol, but by the wife of CTV president and CEO Ivan Fecan. The network is clearly deciding to pour money and resources behind the new show that is trending up, not the old show that is trending down.
Blaming the economy for Idol’s demise is a bit like ABC saying the U.S. economic collapse took out Pushing Daisies or Dirty Sexy Money. These are just shows whose ratings went down and were canceled.
What makes this decision a little surprising is that, with the worsening economy, more people are watching TV now and are hungry for prime time escapism and distractions. CBC’s ratings for their reality series Dragon’s Den shot up as the stock market plummeted. So You Think You Can Dance Canada was the No. 1 new show–Canadian or American–on Canadian TV this fall.
The bad economy might even ramp back up ratings for American Idol, which returns in January. Fox has scheduled a conference call with Simon Cowell for today to heat up interest in their franchise series, which has been tweaked with a fourth judge and other innovations. This series lost a few viewers for the first time last season and CTV is probably gambling that the mother ship is getting a little pitchy, dawg. But viewers too broke to party elsewhere this winter may be back on the Idol express.
Fox, however, did not pay about $200 million for the rights to the 2010 Winter and 2012 Summer Olympic Games. CTV did. The ad market has collapsed, and suddenly paying 212% more for the B.C. Winter Games than CBC payed for 2006 in Turin seems to have more downside than a dangling gondola at Whistler.
Advertisers who might have been talked into one more round of Canadian Idol are now being wooed to invest in the 2010 Games. And if you are Ford or Chrysler or GM, you don’t even know if you’re going to be around for the 2010 Games.
CTV needs to suck every cent from that Olympic teat, and all those going out of business signs are killing them. So if you want to know who or what killed Canadian Idol, blame CTV’s lust to seize the B.C. Olympics at any cost.

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