Canadian youth network YTV has recently been granted a seven-year expansion on its license from the Canadian Radio and Television Commission, including an amendment that will see the channel gearing more of its programming between 9 p.m. and midnight to teens and their families.
YTV was formerly required to include a protagonist under the age of 18 in all dramas between 6 p.m. and midnight. The new rules stipulate a teen protagonist only until 9 p.m., allowing the net to build a new three-hour block called Limbo, which will target an older audience when it officially launches on September 11.
Paula Parker, YTV’s VP of programming and production, says the change was made because research showed that the channel’s main demo of kids were going to bed by 9 p.m., so logically, it made sense to target a demo that is still awake-teens and young adults.
‘We are already the number-three network for teens among conventionals and specialty channels,’ Parker says. ‘So this is an opportunity for us to be really aggressive, spend some time on it, and come out with some great programming for that demo.’
This fall, Parker says 80% of the shows will be acquired because the block is so new, but eventually commissioned properties will comprise a much bigger chunk. In terms of the percentages between live action and animation in the new block, Parker says it will probably end up being a 50/50 split. ‘We’re going to kick off this month, Monday through Friday, going to about 10:30 p.m.,’ Parker says. ‘Then we’d be aiming to add another hour for the following fall, so the block would be going to 11:30 p.m.’
One of the new teen block offerings is Live Through This, a music-driven live-action drama commissioned from Montreal’s Telescene by MTV. The commitment for this one-hour show is 26 eps. ‘I’m really excited about it, and it’s Canadian,’ Parker adds. The series is about members of an `80s rock band who reunite for a comeback tour and bring their teen and 20-something offspring along. The initial rush over touring wears thin as the kids start to find it challenging to deal with coming-of-age issues, like love and sex, while living on a bus.
There is also a live-action music show called Chart Attack in development as a YTV production.
Another live-action series to merit the teen block nod is U.K.-originated Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married, based on the best-selling book by British writer Marian Keyes and produced by U.K.-based Carnival Films. Sixteen half hours are exclusive to Canada and center around a protagonist who moves out to share a flat in London with friends. After a fortune-teller predicts she will be married in a year the hunt begins to find the lucky guy.
To sate the reality- and giddy date-obsessed appetites of the demo, YTV chose Crush, a half-hour live game show produced by USA Cable Entertainment in which the contestant tries to guess the identity of three acquaintances, then decides which one has the secret crush.
Downtown, another MTV property to air in the new block, offers teens slice-of-life issues germane to their peer group. This MTV animation, set in the lower-east side of Manhattan, is about friends in their late teens and 20s whose problems keep them embroiled in each other’s lives. Another toon acquisition is New York-based Fremantle’s Home Movies, which won over Parker with its hilarious, offbeat animation. The 13 x 30-minute series is about an eight-year-old boy who carries a video camera wherever he goes, making short films like his idol Steven Spielberg by writing, directing, acting and using his friends to play parts. His mom, who is recently divorced, puts up with his obsession as a means to keep him occupied. And two back-to-back episodes of the half-hour anime series Gundam Wing are slated in the later-night lineup.
The pre-rule-change 9 p.m. to midnight slot Monday through Fridays included shows such as: Boy Meets World, Student Bodies, Breaker High and Lassie. On Saturday and Sunday, the lineup included: Worst Witch, Monster By Mistake, Freaky Stories and New Addams Family. Due to the lead time needed to build an entire block, these shows will round out any holes still in the sked, but won’t be branded into the new block.
Other shows returning to YTV that will be branded into the block are: season two of MTV’s Daria; Absolutely Productions/Klasky Csupo’s Stressed Eric; and the second season of YTV magazine show Gamerz.
In terms of shows the channel is stil looking to pick up, Parker says although YTV is committed to maintaining 70% Canadian content, the other 30% can come from anywhere in the world. ‘We’re looking for animation, live action or music, anything to do with teens and teen lifestyles-we’re going after unique and creative programming targeted to that demo.’ Parker adds: ‘The thing about teens is they’re no longer children or kids, but they’re not yet adults either.’