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NBC and CBS Shop Canada for Shows

NEW YORK:CBS and NBC are adding Canadian-made dramas to the prime-time schedule next season, Bloombergreports. Canadian broadcaster CTV is sharing the cost of producing the shows, cutting the U.S. networks’ costs by about half. CBS is adding “The Bridge,” a crime drama shot in Toronto, and NBC is debuting “The Listener,” another Toronto-based show about a telepathic paramedic. Licensing for the new shows will be about 50 percent of the typical $1.6 million paid per episode in the United States.

“The Bridge” follows “Flashpoint” to CBS, which aired the latter show last year and become the most-watched new original drama last summer.

The broadcast networks have been struggling to cut costs everywhere as the ad market implodes and ratings decline. CBS is planning six fewer pilots this year than last year’s 15. Fox is down to 16 from 21 in 2007. NBC is making 11, though it recently moved Jay Leno into it 10 p.m. prime-time spot, cutting its costs for the time slot significantly. ABC is said to be doing 26 pilots.

Canadian cities have been a hub of American TV production for years because of tax breaks and cheaper labor. “The X-Files” series was produced in Vancouver for five years. Fox’s “Fringe,” reportedly cost it $4 million per episode in New York, and was moved to Vancouver, Variety said last month. U.S. production spending declined 72 percent in Toronto last year from nearly $287 million in ’07, The National Post said. It’s on the upswing again, with 21 productions in progress last week, due in part to tax credits and the weakened Canadian currency. – Deborah D. McAdams