John Brunton on CBC icing Battle of the Blades

John Brunton says he’s “had better days” after Thursday’s CBC bombshell

With all the hits hockey has taken lately, one yesterday sent TV producer John Brunton reeling. CBC dropped a bombshell Thursday by announcing that Battle of the Blades would not be part of its 2012-13 season.

“I’ve had better days in my career,” says Brunton, head of Insight Productions and executive producer of the three year old series.
Brunton, who also produces Canada’s Got Talent for City and Canada Sings for Global, acknowledged that Blades, which features ex-NHLers competing as figure skaters, is a “big, expensive show.” He pointed out, however, that it is also one of CBC’s top-rated shows, calling it “the most successful competition format ever.”
CBC executive vice president Kirstine Stewart, who was among the Canadian TV executives appearing at a TV Day symposium in TorontoThursday, says the decision to place the series on hiatus for one year was purely economically motivated. The CBC is grappling with a 10% reduction of its federal appropriation, a $115 million hit phased in over the next three years.
That three year dwindling has Brunton a little worried about Blades returning for CBC’s 2013-14 season. CTV once famously announced it was “resting” another show Brunton produced, Canadian Idol. That was seven years ago.
Stewart, however, also put a series on the shelf for a season—the daytime magazine Steven & Chris—and, true to her word, brought it back the following year.
Other reality shows have been parked by other networks for a year or longer and returned stronger than ever. Pierre Dion, president and CEO of French language network TVA, told the TV Day attendees that his network’s biggest hit, Star Academy, weathered a similar shut down. That star search series was rested in 2009 and then returned to TVA’s schedule three years later, drawing an astounding 2.3 million Quebecviewers.
Brunton says that is little comfort for the 150 Blades staffers who will sit out the coming season. Blades has also raised close to a million dollars for various player charities in its first three seasons.
Without naming names, he said he already had commitments from ex-NHL “Hall of Famers and multiple Stanley Cup winners” for the upcoming season and hopes they’ll re-commit in a year’s time. Depending, of course, if CBC re-ups first. “That would be great news,” he says.
NEXT POST (for sure this time): Kirstine Stewart on the downsized CBC schedule. 

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