Empire: too red, white and black for Canada?

EMPIRE: L-R: Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard in the ÒEt Tu, Brute?Ó episode of EMPIRE airing Wednesday, Dec. 2 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2015 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Chuck Hodes/FOX.
L-R: Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard star in Empire. Photo: Chuck Hodes/FOX.

Usually the Canadian Top-30 pretty much mirrors the American Top-30 when it comes to weekly TV ratings. There are, occasionally, significant differences.

Take Empire. Fox’s hip hop prime time soap took off like a rocket in America last season. Through the end of the 2014-15 season, it was the No. 1 U.S. network series on television, broadcast or cable.

Not just new network series, either. In P18-49, W18-49 and P18-34, it beat everything except AMC’s The Walking Dead. In the U.S., it beat The Big Bang Theory, Game of Thrones and Scandal. It did this on Fox!

In Canada, Empire was halted at the border. It never cracked our Top-30. City quietly dropped it this winter and when the second half of Season Two begins March 30, it can only be streamed on Shomi or viewed on Fox border stations.

Empire is still the No. 1 scripted show on broadcast TV in the U.S. and has already been picked up there for a third season.

City also has dropped another popular–albeit slipping–U.S. drama: Scandal. To not simulcast an American hit used to be the dumbest move you can make as a Canadian scheduler. What’s happening?

One thing that’s happening is that Canadian broadcasters no longer have money to load up on shows and play games of keep-a-way. Shows are dropped and stay dropped nowadays that would have been snatched up like unprotected free agents five or 10 years ago.

The other thing is that Rogers screwed up Empire right from the beginning. They aired most of the first season not on City but on their ethnic channel, OMNI. On City, they did not want to move proven winner Modern Family out of Wednesdays at 9 (followed by Blackish, a comedy featuring an African-American cast that pairs well). They rationalized Empire as more of a multicultural fit, but that decision doomed the series to very low returns.

Other American shows in the last year or two have gone straight to Canadian digital carriers, including Fresh Off The Boat and Jane The Virgin.

Is anyone else seeing a pattern? Are Canadians just not interested in “Black” shows or shows featuring hyphenated Americans? Canadian cities such as Toronto and other GTA communities are as diverse as any cities in the world but are TV shows featuring minorities less embraced by diverse audiences in Canada than they are in America?

The question seems valid when you look at the Numeris Canadian Top-30 2+ totals for the week of Feb. 8 – 14. The list is whiter than the Oscars. The long-running Shonda Rhimes drama Grey’s Anatomy, at No. 17, comes closest to representing an African American show but even that’s debatable. The only other shows with any kind of a colour connection in the Canadian Top-30 that week are Blue Bloods and Code Black.

Nothing on City that week, by the way, cracked the national Top-30 in Canada. They do better in greater Toronto, where Modern Family (No. 13), Scorpion (16) and 2 Broke Girls (30) all register.

Certainly there is more diversity in casting today than there was even three years ago in American television and many of those shows are imported and are popular here. When the No. 1 U.S. scripted series, however, is dumped by one Canadian broadcaster and not pounced on by the others, it might be time to acknowledge a programming racial divide.

10 Responses to “Empire: too red, white and black for Canada?”

  1. Interesting article, but Blue Blood has a colour connection? All the series regular are white and it is about an Irish cop family. Yes they have one or two recurring that are not, but other shows in the top 30 have regulars that are not white, Criminal Minds, Castle, Arrow, How To Get Away with Murder (obviously) to name a few. Just saying.

    Reply
    • Bill Brioux

      I was kidding. “Blue” Bloods? Code “Black”? The point is the Canadian Top 30 is so white the only colour is in the titles.

      Reply
  2. Way to go Bill, start stirring up the racial divide and tension where there is none to speak of. There is no evidence of a cause and effect relation here whereby shows are not watched because of a black or otherwise minority-heavy cast and even just bringing this up stirs the pot and causes unnecessary trouble in a society where you can’t get away from the constant race baiting.

    That’s the first thing, the second being what point are you even trying to make? I can only assume from your comments that you’re suggesting this is somehow immoral – which from reading your posts from time to time and listening to your podcast interviews, clearly is not a stretch to assume from your obvious liberal leaning. And to that I say, who gives a rat’s @$$ what their reason is for not watching it. In a supposed “free society”, we should be able to watch whatever we want for whatever reason. I suppose to your liberal class, much like probably the CRTC would love to regulate if they only could, we should be forced to watch a percentage of “diverse” shows each week for the good of society – because we’re Canadian and that’s just who we are, not like those barbarians in the US?

    Have you run of stuff to write about Bill? Now you have to dip into the race wars? This article is beyond pointless and I’d use more harsh language but assuming the blog only gets as many readers as likely the Twitter feed of a 14 year old girl from Moose Jaw, it’s significance is not worth hyping.

    Reply
  3. bluebird

    Bill – don’t listen to the previous commenter. If you want to speak about race (or lack of diversity on television) – you go right ahead.
    “It’s Me” is what’s wrong with Canada. They think making comments about race is “inciting” something. He is also the type of person to ignore non-whites and doesn’t think diversity is needed.
    You were simply stating the facts. Kudos to you, Bill.

    Reply
    • It's Me

      I’m not saying he shouldn’t have the right to, it’s a supposedly free country, so go right ahead. But with that being said, that doesn’t mean he should be concluding based on zero factual evidence that those shows have low ratings because of the actor’s race. And if you really think that is factual based on what Bill has provided to us, it just shows how clueless you really are. There’s nothing factual about it, it’s all speculative. I wouldn’t expect some left-wing nutbar to expect to know what facts are, because they base their opinions on emotions rather than fact, but it’s still disappointing whenever you come across it nonetheless.

      We live in a society nowadays where race is constantly talked about ad nauseam and not only that, but the liberal buzzwords “racist” and “bigot” are tossed at people who reasonably disagree with them on race as you are sort of inferring onto myself indirectly in so few words; and you think that this article and the kind of messaging in the mainstream and social media doesn’t contribute to it? You may not think so because you liberals love to stir up and create a divide because it makes friends with the minority group for yourself, but I, with some actual reason and common sense do see it as inciting. Inciting may be a poor choice of wording, but the point is it contributes to this oversensitiveness to race that present in society.

      And ain’t it funny, you talk about diversity, but yet apparently that doesn’t apply to opinions according to you, eh?

      Reply
  4. Alicia O

    You are off the mark Bill. Empire failed in Canada due to the fact that it’s on CityTV which is Canada’s version of The CW (the U.S.’s much smaller national network) What I find interesting is that shows like Arrow and The Flash get high ratings in Canada because they are scheduled well on CTV but in the U.S. those shows are on CW so they get smaller ratings.)

    Reply
    • Bill Brioux

      Still, why didn’t CTV snatch Empire away after Rogers/City dumped it? A few years ago they would have–unless their read is that the show would not perform as well in Canada as it does in the States.

      Reply
  5. BettyCooper

    Another example … when OWN Canada ran Tyler Perry’s The Have and the Have Nots, ratings were abysmal, like hashtags. Yet it is OWN US’s #1 show bar none. Even the audience who you would think would be watching a Tyler Perry Show in Canada seemed not to be interested.

    Reply

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