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Global takes aim at female audiences with drama-heavy fall line-up

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TORONTO - Global is banking on female audiences and serialized dramas in its fall line-up, hoping that shows like "Gracepoint" and "State of Affairs" will draw loyal fan followings and social media buzz.

Shaw Media, which also runs specialty channels History and Showcase, announced its 2014-15 television schedule on Wednesday with eight new dramas headed to Global.

"I think the creative industry has prioritized drama," Barbara Williams, senior vice president of content at Shaw Media, said in an interview.

"As the cable channels have become more involved in drama and as technology as allowed people to be more engaged, I think it's allowed for a creative explosion of storytelling that's richer, more complex, more thoughtful and smarter than ever."

Williams said that networks are catching up with cable when it comes to producing layered dramas that audiences feel compelled to keep up with week to week. She pointed to "Sleepy Hollow" and "The Blacklist," two of Global's returning hits.

"It's almost like a live event show. When that next episode of 'Gracepoint' comes along and social media explodes around it, everybody will want to be there," she said. "I think advertisers are realizing there's huge power in that."

"Gracepoint" is the U.S. adaptation of the critically acclaimed British drama "Broadchurch," in which Tennant also starred as a prickly detective working a child murder case in a picturesque town. Nick Nolte and Anna Gunn of "Breaking Bad" fame also star.

Williams noted that when Rogers Media secured its $5.2 billion deal for exclusive rights to hockey, that opened up an opportunity for Global to chase female viewers.

While Rogers-owned City airs hockey on Sunday nights, Global will air Julianna Margulies-led "The Good Wife" and new series "Madam Secretary," starring Tea Leoni as a newly appointed U.S. Secretary of State. It will also air new dramas on weeknights at 10 p.m., a time slot that City has said it is no longer pursuing.

"I think we're smart enough to take advantage of an opportunity when we see one," said Williams with a smile at a press conference Wednesday.

She also noted the appeal of female audiences to advertisers — roughly 80 to 85 per cent of consumer purchases are made by women, she said. Shaw already owns a large chunk of the lifestyle market with its specialty channels The Food Network, Slice and HGTV.

In another female-driven show headed to Global, "State of Affairs," Katherine Heigl stars as a CIA analyst working closely with the first female president, played by Alfre Woodard.

Leslie Odom Jr., who plays Woodard's chief of staff, said at the press conference he was encouraged by the show's strong roles for women.

"It still means something to me to see Katherine Heigl and Alfre Woodard lead a show ... That still means something to me in 2014. Maybe someday it won't. Maybe someday we'll be able to take that for granted, but right now I sure don't," he said.

Also on the new dramatic roster is "Stalker," a psychological thriller starring Dylan McDermott and "Nikita"'s Maggie Q as detectives who handle stalking cases for the LAPD.

Williams said it is more difficult to create devoted audiences for comedies than it is for dramas. The fate of Andrea Martin sitcom "Working the Engels" is up in the air until after its NBC debut in July, although Williams said it got "solid" ratings in Canada.

"We love doing that show. Andrea Martin was spectacular and I think the whole cast gelled really beautifully," she said. "So we're waiting to see how it does on NBC and then we'll make a decision."

Meanwhile, "Big Brother Canada" did so well on Slice that it will move to Global this fall. Williams said the success of the reality TV series "kind of blew our minds."

Shaw also announced Wednesday the launch of two new specialty channels: FYI, devoted to lifestyle programming, and CI, standing for Crime + Investigation and devoted to mystery and thriller genres.

Some 50 new shows are headed for Shaw's raft of specialty channels — including "Houdini," starring Adrien Brody as the famous illusionist, and "Texas Rising," starring Brendan Fraser and Ray Liotta as Texas Rangers, both airing on History.

"Un-Real," a comedy about the behind-the-scenes bickering that goes into making a reality series, will air on Lifetime, while Ellen DeGeneres will host furniture design competition "Ellen's Design Challenge" on HGTV Canada.

Also airing on Global this fall is superhero series "Constantine," based on the D.C. series "Hellblazer" and starring Matt Ryan as demon hunter John Constantine.

"He's actually a working class anti-hero," said Ryan at the press conference. "He's a flawed character. He gets things wrong. He's human. He doesn't have any special powers like most of the other comic book characters, and I think that's what sets him apart."

A handful of new comedies will round out Global's line-up, including "Partners," starring Kelsey Grammer and Martin Lawrence, and romantic comedies "A to Z" and "Marry Me."

"Bad Judge," from executive producers Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, stars Kate Walsh as an untameable judge who plays by her own rulings. John Mulaney of "Saturday Night Live" will also appear in "Mulaney," about a rising stand-up comic.

Returning to the schedule are "About a Boy," "Hawaii Five-0," and Canadian dramas "Remedy" and "Rookie Blue."

Global has also picked up "NCIS: New Orleans" to complement the popular "NCIS" and "NCIS: LA," and will continue to air "Chicago PD" and "Chicago Fire."

Two new shows will air mid-season: "Heroes Reborn," billed as the "saga behind the 2006 breakout hit 'Heroes,' and "The Dovekeepers," a Mark Burnett-produced four-hour miniseries based on the Alice Hoffman historical novel.

CBC-TV revealed its fall schedule last week, while Rogers unveiled its line-up Tuesday and CTV showcases its slate of programs Thursday.

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