TV & Film News – TV viewing still up significantly compared to pre-COVID period

thinktv says television viewing continues to be significantly higher than pre-COVID-19 levels. Its latest data analysis reflecting the period from Mar. 16 – May 3, suggests Canadians are watching 25 hours of TV per week, two hours more than the ‘pre-COVID’ period (Ind. 2+). Although young adults (18-24) watch less TV than adults on average, their time spent has increased the most at 14%. The biggest audience growth has been during the daytime (up 27%) and in the evening (+15%). Primetime, which captures the highest absolute audience of any daypart, is down slightly but generally still holding steady despite the absence of live sports. 

Bell has completed its acquisition of French-language conventional TV network V and ad-supported VOD service Noovo.ca to its Bell Media division. Karine Moses, President, Bell Media Québec and Bell’s Vice Chair, Québec, is leading the Montréal-based team responsible for the day-to-day operations of V and Noovo.ca. Bell says the acquisition underscores Bell Media’s commitment to increase the production of original local content in Québec, and aligns with the reorganization of the company’s French-language original programming teams under Suzane Landry, Vice-President, French-Language Content Development and Programming. Landry has appointed Mélanie Bhérer as General Manager, Variety, Lifestyle, and Documentary, and Sophie Parizeau as General Manager, Fiction and Digital Content. V’s Brigitte Vincent has been named General Manager, Programming Strategies, Acquisitions and Commercialization. V Média owns and operates television stations in Montréal, Québec City, Saguenay, Sherbrooke, and Trois-Rivières, and has affiliate stations in Gatineau, Rivière-du-Loup and Val-d’Or. 

Thunderbird Entertainment Group animated series Molly of Denali has been nominated for a prestigious Peabody Award. One of only two programs nominated in the Children’s & Youth Category, the series is co-produced by WGBH Boston and Thunderbird’s kids and family division Atomic Cartoons, for PBS KIDS and CBC Kids. Since its 2019 premiere, Molly of Denali has been widely acknowledged as the first nationally-distributed children’s series in the U.S. to feature an Indigenous lead character. It follows 10-year-old Molly Mabray, who has cultural heritage from three Athabascan groups (the Gwich’in, Koyukon and Dena’ina), as she and her friends explore their surroundings and Native culture. All Alaska Native characters portrayed on the ground-breaking series are voiced by Indigenous actors. In Canada, Molly of Denali airs Wednesday and Saturday mornings on CBC, and is available to stream on CBC Gem.

Global has announced the first round of new and returning series headlining its summer primetime lineup, starting with new comedic game show Game On!, Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT, beginning May 27, hosted by Keegan-Michael Key. It pits two teams of three, captained by tennis champion Venus Williams and Super Bowl champion Rob Gronkowski, alongside comedians Bobby Lee and Ian Karmel and rotating sports stars, comedians and celebrities, against each other in over-the-top physical challenges, absurd trivia, and epic field competitions. Tough As Nails, Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT beginning July 8, is a new 10-episode competition series from producer Phil Keoghan (The Amazing Race) celebrating everyday people who don’t think twice about working long hours and getting their hands dirty. They’ll be tested for their strength, endurance, life skills and mental toughness in challenges that take place at real-world job sites. Dwayne Johnson’s The Titan Games is also back with 13 new episodes Mondays at 8 p.m. ET /PT, beginning May 25, with six world-renowned athletes competing against the everyday Titans.

Citytv and Citytv NOW’s summer schedule offers two new series, beginning this Thursday, May 21 at 9 p.m. ET. Eight-part reality series Labor of Love, hosted by Kristin Davis (Sex and the City), follows Kristy Katzmann, a successful career woman as she’s matched with 15 potential suitors who are ready to let their paternal sides shine. Then, Citytv invites audiences to relive The Bachelor franchise’s most dramatic seasons in 10-part The Bachelor: The Greatest Seasons – Ever!, premiering Monday, June 8. On May 26, new judge Sofia Vergara joins Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum, and Howie Mandel, alongside host Terry Crews, for Season 15 of America’s Got Talent. Other returning shows include Celebrity Family Feud (May 31) and Press Your Luck (May 31). 

NBC has acquired CTV medical series Transplant, centered around a Syrian doctor with battle-tested skills in emergency medicine who flees his country and struggles to build a new life in Canada. Starring Hamza Haq (Quantico), Laurence Leboeuf (The Disappearance), and John Hannah (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), the show was developed at CTV and is produced by Sphère Média Plus in association with CTV and NBCUniversal International Studios, a division of NBCUniversal Content Studios. NBCUniversal Global Distribution handles worldwide distribution for the series.

Canada’s Drag Race, Season 1, has announced the 12 Canadian “queens” who’ll compete to become Canada’s First Drag Superstar, accompanied by a $100,000 grand prize. A Crave Original Series, the streaming service will premiere the show July 2 with new episodes rolling out weekly, Thursday nights on Crave.ca and the Crave app. Presiding as judges are Brooke Lynn Hytes, Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman, and Stacey McKenzie – while ETALK correspondent Traci Melchor is Canada’s first Squirrel Friend, making appearances throughout the season. Weekly celebrity guest hosts will also join the panel. 

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan

Unsinkable, Kids Help Phone, and Bell Media are behind one-hour special Unsinkable Youth, a multi-platform celebration of Canadian youth. Hosted by Olympian and Unsinkable founder Silken Laumann and Never Have I Ever star Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, the event will raise awareness of the current mental health crisis among Canadian youth and features musicians, performers, and athletes including Johnny Orlando, Hayley Wickenheiser, Jacob Tremblay, The Reklaws, Tessa Virtue, Wali Shah, Lauren Orlando, Lennon Stella and more. The one-hour event airs Friday, May 22 at 1 p.m. ET on CTV and its platforms as well as Facebook and YouTube. Kids Help Phone says its outreach has more than doubled across Canada during the COVID-19 crisis, including in Nova Scotia following the mass shooting. Demand for service remains 63% higher on texting platforms and 55% higher through phones.

Hannah Alper

Corus Entertainment is premiering new Corus Kids Original documentary, CitizenKid: Earth Comes First, highlighting four Canadian youth activists with a shared passion for making the world a better place. Premiering June 5 at 5:30 p.m. ET/PT on YTV, the doc follows Hannah Alper, Cooper Price, Charlene Rocha and Sophia Mathur as they set out to raise awareness of climate change issues and empower kids to take action. Produced by White Pine Pictures, CitizenKid: Earth Comes First is inspired by the award-winning CitizenKid book collection from Corus Entertainment’s Kids Can Press. The documentary provides a behind-the-scenes look at how these young activists use social media to amplify their voices and asks Canadians to take part online in their #EarthComesFirst movement.

The Bundesliga returned to Sportsnet May 16 as Germany’s top teams resume their season. With nine weeks left, final matches are scheduled for Saturday, June 27. All games will be played without fans in attendance. Sportsnet’s Bundesliga broadcast schedule will be updated weekly on sportsnet.ca. 

Buck Productions, the Toronto content creation house, has secured Season 2 renewal of Cashed Out (10×60) from U.S. cable and satellite network REELZ. The docuseries explores the lives and careers of A-list celebrities through the money trails they leave behind, examining the way they earned, spent and lost their fortunes in life and after death. Season 2 focuses on Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Stan Lee, Tom Petty, Selena Quintanilla, Marvin Gaye, Chris Cornell, and more. Cashed Out will begin principal photography this fall and is slated for broadcast in 2021. 

The Canada Media Fund (CMF) has opened applications to the COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund. Click here to apply and here to access the criteria. Parent companies that have received support – either directly or indirectly through their subsidiaries – in 2017-18, 2018-19 or 2019-20 are eligible to receive funding. If an eligible applicant has received funding in the previous three years from more than one of either the CMF, Telefilm Canada, or the Canada Council for the Arts, the applicant must apply to the organization which provided the highest amount of funding over the past three-year period.

Corus and the Banff World Media Festival have announced the recipients of this year’s Corus Writer’s Apprentice Program. The 2020 cohort will receive a premium pass to BANFF 2020 Virtual Edition with access to panels, keynotes, master classes and networking opportunities from May to September, virtual mentorship opportunities, placement in the story department of a Canadian primetime series and complimentary registration and travel to BANFF 2021. The 2020 recipients are: Michael Hanley, a graduate of the 2016 Canadian Film Centre’s Writer’s Lab and recipient of Telefilm’s New Voices Award; Lynn Rafferty, an LGBTQ actor and writer from Dublin, who now lives in Canada; Ian Steaman, former record exec and co-founder of the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival, who was one of six residents in the 2019 Bell Media Prime Time TV Writing Program at CFC; Rebecca Grenier, who served as script coordinator for an upcoming CBC Gem series, and wrote and produced short film Yogurt in 2018; and Gordie Lucius, an award-winning screenwriter and comedian recently chosen to be part of NSI’s Totally TV Program. 

CHCH-TV Hamilton has launched Shop Local, a new online directory that aims to highlight the ingenuity demonstrated by local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hosted on CHCH.com, the directory is free and open to the public. General Sales Manager Geoff Thrasher says the initiative responds to a call from many local business owners who’ve had to change the way they operate and “as an independent station, we can certainly relate to the flexibility and creative thinking needed to make things work during tough times like these.” As of last week, the directory included nearly 100 local businesses in Hamilton, Halton, Niagara, and the GTA.