Bell Media announces lineup, says iHeartRadio MMVAs will be delayed

By Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press

TORONTO — Bell Media says it’s run into scheduling conflicts for the 2019 iHeartRadio MMVAs and will have to delay the show — possibly until next year.

As the company announced its full 2019/2020 programming lineup and strategies Thursday —including several new women-led dramas — executives told The Canadian Press the dates they initially considered for this year’s annual awards show didn’t pan out.

“We’re going to delay this summer because we ran into two huge events — a massive concert in August and also the MTV awards were one day after our date, so we didn’t think it was smart,” Randy Lennox, president of Bell Media, said in an interview.

“You’ve got to fish where the fish are, and in terms of getting artists, when you’ve got an MTV awards the very next day, you’re not going to get what you need. So for this year we’re going to delay it a bit.”

Lennox said they’re “constantly” trying to figure out another date that works weather-wise, programming-wise and talent-wise.

“I would not step up to the plate for 2019 unless I have Shawn (Mendes) or Justin (Bieber) or the Weeknd or Taylor (Swift), because we always do,” he said. “It’s a field of dreams thing. If we get the artist anchors for the show, it will come.”

And if those variables don’t come together?

“Then we’ll go next year,” Lennox said.

Mike Cosentino, president of content and programming at Bell Media, said they’ve been on the phone with record labels every day to find talent and are “committed to finding a way to continue the show,” which airs on multiple platforms, including Much and CTV.

“I think we’re looking at some Plan Bs, which could include something akin to an MMVAs-style awards performance,” Cosentino said.

“Our priority is to produce another great iHeart MMVAs, but of course we need all the pieces to come together for that.”

CTV’s upcoming lineup has several new high-profile dramas with women in key roles, including the crime drama “Stumptown,” starring Vancouver-born Cobie Smulders as an army veteran and Tantoo Cardinal of Fort McMurray, Alta., as a powerful casino owner.

“I think that people are finally seeing women as an audience,” Smulders said in an interview. 

“We’re half of the population and I think that women in general want to see other women doing different types of roles on television, so that’s exciting, that the marketplace is finally catching up to that.”

Other new women-led dramas include the thriller “Emergence,” starring Allison Tolman as a police chief who takes in a child she finds at a crash site; the courthouse drama “All Rise” with Simone Missick; and the familial drama “Almost Family” with Brittany Snow.

Also skewing female is a new agreement with Harlequin Studios, which will see CTV commission more than 20 Canadian made-for-television films.

Cosentino said the focus on women and family-friendly, “aspirational dramas” serves the desires of its demographic and advertisers, and builds upon a strategy CTV began a few years ago with shows including “This is Us.”

Other new additions to the schedule include the singing competition show “The Masked Singer”; Ryan Murphy’s “9-1-1: Lone Star” starring Rob Lowe as a cop; and “For Life,” about inspired by the life of Isaac Wright Jr., who got a law degree while serving a prison sentence for a crime he didn’t commit.

The Chuck Lorre-created “Bob Hearts Abishola” is among the new comedies.

Fresh Canadian programs for CTV include “Transplant,” about an emergency medicine doctor who fled Syria for Canada, and the mystery drama “Albedo” starring Evangeline Lilly.

A total of 70 original English-language programs will be produced in partnership with independent production companies and in-house at Bell Media Studios, the company said.

Those programs stretch across the company platforms, which also include the rebranded specialty channels CTV Comedy Channel, CTV Sci-Fi Channel, CTV Drama Channel, and CTV life Channel.

Cosentino said he’s not concerned about the schedule now that ratings juggernaut “The Big Bang Theory,” which aired on CTV, has ended its run for good. He plans to fill its Thursday primetime slot with the medical drama “Grey’s Anatomy.”

“I think we have an answer to ‘The Big Bang’ leaving the schedule, and I think ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ will hit its stride and be successful in that slot.”

Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press

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