CBC’s Stewart: not big on numbers at the moment

Yesterday in the Globe and Mail, CBC entertainment president Kirstine Stewart suggested she was going to get rid of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune and get the public network back to all-Canadian happy land. Stewart knows this plays well with Globe readers, including the political movers and shakers who fall asleep each night after Mansbridge to the gentle sounds of CBC One wafting from their Bose sound systems. Part of her tricky mandate, unique among Canadian broadcasters, is to wave the flag and keep the appropriation coming.
Elsewhere, however, this is nonsense. In the TV biz, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and Jeopardy! at 7:30 on CBC sure ain’t broke. It did exactly what her predecessor, Richard Stursberg, hoped it would, delivering 1.2- to 1.3 million viewers every night leading into CBC’s prime time schedule.
Back when CBC was the big noise in Canada, American content was routinely used to draw folks into Canadian content. Dallas, The Golden Girls and many other hits aired on CBC first. This nationalistic fuss over Jeopardy!–hosted by Sudbury son Alex Trebek–staining the CBC landscape while private networks like CTV and Global get brownie points for loud American tabloid clones featuring wall-to-wall Kardashians is my argument for tossing Canadian broadcast regulations.
Stewart says her Canadian shows have reached the point where they can stand on their own and don’t need Yankee lead ins. The day after it was reported that she said that, Dragon’s Den shed 700,000 viewers week-to-week in Canada thanks to Wednesday night’s two hour season premiere of American Idol on CTV at 2,878,000 overnight, estimated viewers. The good news for CBC was that Republic of Doyle stood relatively firm in week two at 944,000 viewers.
This January has not been kind to CBC’s winter offerings. InSecurity has gone 724,000 – 526,000 – 356,000. Pillars of the Earth: 951,000 – 762,000 – 644,000. First three weeks of 18 to Life: 436,000 – 386,000 – 282,000. More entrenched Little Mosque: 593,000 – 477,000 – 452,000. The only new show that went up this week was Village on a Diet, back over the half million mark.
There are no soft spots on this winter’s schedule and while Stewart may not want to spend whatever it is costing her to extend Jeopardy! for another fall, well, even Dragon’s Den doesn’t have that much smoke. What would she replace it with? Stripping Being Erica, where ratings have shrunk every season, would only serve to illustrate how a show can go bad in 14 days.
Stewart suggested in the Globe piece that not everything in television is expressed in numbers. This is not true. Everything in television is expressed in numbers.
Even Stewart herself singled out one figure: “2318.” This is the 2,318,000 who tuned in for the triumphant series debut of Little Mosque in 2007.
This week that series was down to 452,000 viewers, exactly the posted population of Brampton, Ont. As they might say on Jeopardy!, “What has less than one-fifth the audience it used to have?”


  1. The fuss about Wheel and Jeopardy never made sense to me either. The CBC has roughly the same US programming as before (i.e., Simpsons) and is generally still all-Canadian in prime time. Wheel and Jeopardy sort of matched the CBC “feel” and provid solid numbers to tent-pole the evening. Richard Stursberg did a lot of things I wasn’t fond of, but this was not really one of them.

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