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TV gets cooking with Pamela Anderson among new Canadian offerings

Bryan Baeumler also in Corus fall/winter plans to focus on unscripted Canadian content
Actress Pamela Anderson adjusts her sunglasses during a press conference on the set of Sur Vie in Ile Bizzard, west of Montreal, Tuesday, August 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

A Pamela Anderson cooking show and a new docuseries from Bryan and Sarah Baeumler are among the homegrown highlights of Corus Entertainment’s TV plans, with the broadcaster’s content boss touting a focus on unscripted “Canadian content that can compete with the rest of the world and isn’t hamstrung by regulations.”

Corus revealed a fall/winter lineup for its specialty properties and flagship Global that add “Pamela’s Cookin’ With Love” to Food Network Canada and “Building Baeumler” to HGTV Canada.

Also heading to HGTV Canada is Kristen Coutts’ “Beer Budget Reno,” the fall luxury reno show “House of Ali” with Ali Budd, and a second season of Anderson’s reno show “Pamela’s Garden of Eden,” set for winter.

Troy Reeb, executive vice president of networks and content, said the media giant is leaning into lifestyles and reality fare after the CRTC eased rules around its obligations to produce homegrown scripted drama and comedy.

“It’s not that we don’t love our Canadian dramas, it’s just that to make those big, scripted shows requires you to have budgets that compete with Hollywood, and that’s very difficult for Canadian companies,” Reeb said Wednesday.

“When it comes to the unscripted space, we know we can make competitive shows that sell around the world, that can compete with the best of the world.”

The CRTC said last month it had granted Corus’s request to reduce the amount it spends on so-called “programs of national interest” to five per cent of its revenue, down from 8.5 per cent.

Reeb pointed to the success of the Baeumlers’ HGTV Canada tropical restoration show “Island of Bryan” as an example of an unscripted series that was competitive globally and which Corus could make “at a price point that works.”

Reeb said “Building Baeumler,” which follows Bryan and Sarah and they grow their individual and family ventures, will showcase more of the “personality dynamic” between the couple that has made their shows resonate with audiences.

Greg McLelland, Corus’ executive vice president and chief revenue officer, said unscripted series are a “huge” part of the broadcaster’s strategy from a “pure revenue standpoint” in part because it’s easier to work sponsorships into those shows.

“When we have those unscripted Canadian shows, our sales teams get extremely excited because we can now put brands right into the show, and we can extend the brand with those hosts because we’ve had such a long relationship with them and they’re great people to work with,” he said.

Other unscripted shows include History Channel’s “Yukon Rescue,” a new docuseries following an emergency response team, and “Sounds Black,” a four-part documentary about the origins of Black music in Canada featuring Kardinal Offishall, Maestro Fresh Wes, Deborah Cox and more.

Global’s homegrown scripted fare includes the B.C.-shot crime drama “Murder in a Small Town” with Vancouver’s Rossif Sutherland and Kristin Kreuk, set for fall, and the mid-season return of the Victor Garber legal drama “Family Law.”

The channel’s hip-hop drama “Robyn Hood,” a reimagining of the Robin Hood tale by Director X that premiered last September, is not returning due to poor ratings, said Reeb.

Global’s fall lineup includes U.S. imports delayed by last year’s Hollywood actors and writers strikes, including CBS’ gender-swapped “Matlock” starring Kathy Bates and the Damon Wayans comedy “Poppa’s House,” in which he plays a divorced radio host navigating his love life while parenting his adult son, played by Damon Wayans Jr.

Groups representing Canadian actors, writers and producers have said eased spending rules for Corus will hurt local creators and result in fewer original homegrown stories, but Reeb said Corus is “doing more than our part to support the Canadian ecosystem.”

He said more of the onus for CanCon should fall on streaming giants like Netflix and Disney Plus.

“We are a small part of the massive media ecosystem that is increasingly occupied by foreign streaming giants and foreign tech giants that are coming into Canada and gobbling up parts of the market and parts of the revenue streams. It’s incumbent on everybody to play their part,” he said.

Reeb added that Corus “will air more Canadian content across our networks this year than all of the streaming services combined,” including its news programs and unscripted series.

On Tuesday, the CRTC said online streaming services operating in Canada will be required to contribute five per cent of their revenues to support local news and the production of Canadian content.

Corus must contribute 30 per cent of its revenues to Canadian content.

Reeb said the move is “a very nice start.”

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