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Another year has passed, and another round of Television Upfronts have taken place.  Upfronts, as they are known in the industry, are presentations by the major television networks where they preview their upcoming fall and mid-season programming to advertisers, agencies, and the press. Launched with much fanfare, it signifies the start of the most important advertising sales period (fall) and provides the opportunity for marketers to buy television commercial airtime “up front” of the season. The events are dominated by glitz, glamour and celebrities, and feature a fast-paced sizzle reel designed to get you pumped about the upcoming year. 

We had the opportunity to attend this year’s event and we’re giving you a sneak peek at what to expect from networks this fall season.

Bell Media is continuing their long-term strategy for CTV of “less guns, more heart” by adding All Rise and Almost Family to the roster alongside Young Sheldon, The Good Doctor, and This Is Us. With CTV looking to replace long-time TV king Big Bang Theory, they will be premiering a new comedy from hit-making producer Chuck Lorre called Bob Hearts Abishola.  In a big upset, after nearly two decades with Corus, Mike Holmes is switching teams and joining CTV. Holmes Family Rescue will debut on CTV in the Summer of 2020 and Holmes 911 will launch on CTV Life this Fall, both original series.  Finally, while initially announced at the 2018 Upfronts, Bell Media has set a date of the fall for the rebranding of four of its specialty channels with The Comedy Network, Bravo, Gusto, and Space respectively becoming CTV Comedy, CTV Drama, CTV Life, and CTV Sci-Fi.

Several days ahead of its formal upfront event, Corus Entertainment, the parent company of Global, revealed much of their fall slate in small waves leaving the star of the show as digital.  Corus announced a partnership with Amazon Prime called StackTV. StackTV is an over-the-top (OTT) service that will be available to Amazon Prime members and will give subscribers both live-streaming and VOD access to Global and twelve of Corus’ specialty channels. This helps Corus reach an increasingly large cord-cutting cohort. Corus also announced a brand-new partnership with US based media group, Complex, becoming the official Canadian sales partner of all its properties.  Complex is one of the top youth and pop culture brands in the US and provides content on topics ranging from sneaker culture and streetwear to fine dining.  It also gives Global new on-air programming, with the popular YouTube interview show Hot Ones getting a 60-minute timeslot after Saturday Night Live.

CBC continues to create new Canadian content, with a focus on Reality TV.  Jamie Oliver, starring the world-famous chef, and Family Feud Canada will attempt to take shows and personalities with international popularity and adapt them to a Canadian audience, leveraging their familiarity.  In 2020 their focus will shift to be more personal with You Can’t Ask That, which asks taboo questions to misunderstood or stigmatized people in society, and Fridge Wars, which makes celebrity chefs face off using only the contents of a Canadian family’s fridge.   

Rogers, and its flagship CityTV, focused on acquiring safe, tried and true shows that have already garnered either critical or commercial success. The big victory they will be touting is their coup of the popular Chicago franchise from Global, which will likely dominate Wednesdays by airing back-to-back-to-back.  Many of its new shows are unlikely to rock the boat, as the majority of them are based on previously existing properties.  Mixed Ish is a spin-off of the popular Black Ish, with a retro 80s feel. Four Weddings & a Funeral is based on the popular film, Lincoln is based on the popular book (and film) The Bone Collector, and The Baker & The Beauty is based on a popular Israeli show of the same name. Even their original new shows Perfect Harmony and Council of Dads appear to be similar to previous megahits, namely Glee and This is Us.  Combined with their control of NHL Hockey and the Toronto Blue Jays, Rogers looks to be stable, but not groundbreaking, in the coming year.

From rebranding specialty channels to introducing a brand-new OTT service, each of Canada’s major networks has revealed a different strategy during this year’s Upfronts. While some are choosing to break new ground, others are playing it safe by sticking with tried and true tactics. When the flashiness and pageantry of the Upfronts subside, it will be interesting to see which strategy will be most attractive to advertisers.