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Unwanted broadcast TV shows proving major benefit to video streaming services

Last Updated Feb 24, 2016 at 9:20 am EDT

In this image released by Fox, Terrence Howard portrays Lucious Lyon in the season two premiere of "Empire." Fans of the hip-hop soap opera "Empire" will soon have to look elsewhere to watch it in Canada as the TV series is being dropped from its prime-time TV slot and is moving to Shomi. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, FOX - Chuck Hodes

TORONTO – Even some of the buzziest shows on television are getting bumped from prime-time schedules at Canada’s major broadcasters as heightened competition for time-slots puts pressure on ratings losers.

But streaming services are proving more than happy to scoop them up.

Hip-hop soap opera “Empire” — one of the top-rated shows in the United States — has become the latest Hollywood hit to get the axe at City, after the network recently decided to scrub Shonda Rhimes’s “Scandal” from the prime-time lineup as well.

“Empire” never made the Canadian Top 30 ratings list during its second season on City, according to data compiled by Numeris, and those low ratings are what led City to dump the series.

“It wasn’t getting the audiences we needed,” said Hayden Mindell, vice president of TV programming and content at City’s owner Rogers Media.

But Shomi, the streaming service launched by Rogers and Shaw Communications, was keen on grabbing rights to the second season of “Empire,” after already seeing its users flock to the first season.

“You take the opportunities when they come, and this was a great opportunity,” said Marni Shulman, head of Shomi’s content and programming, in an interview.

Though Shomi refuses to disclose viewership numbers, Shulman said the first season of the series “always” ranks among the streaming service’s 10 most-watched shows.

“‘Empire’ is a really, really strong show for Shomi,” she said. “It performs exceptionally well for us.”

About 77 per cent of the Shomi accounts that made it through the second episode watched all the way to the end of the first season.

“That’s really, really high,” Shulman said.

New episodes of “Empire,” which begin airing March 30 on Fox, will appear on Shomi within 24 hours of the U.S. broadcast. Canadians will still be able to catch the series on Wednesday nights if they get Fox through their cable or satellite provider or via an over-the-air antenna.

Shomi is home to several other buzzy titles that failed to connect with traditional Canadian broadcasters.

Last summer, “Fresh Off the Boat” took up residence on Shomi when it failed to find broadcaster support in Canada, while other series like “iZombie” and “The Originals” made their Canadian premieres on the service.

“Scandal” recently landed on Netflix Canada when it was bumped from City’s TV schedule.

It’s hard to ignore that many of the series rejected by Canada’s biggest TV channels are also led by minority casts.

Among the shows Shomi owns the exclusive rights to is “Jane the Virgin,” a Golden Globe-winning comedy based on a Venezuelan telenovela, and Netflix streams “From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series,” a thriller with a mostly Latino cast.

“Regardless of how multicultural Canada is … a lot of the time that doesn’t tend to resonate across conventional television,” Shulman said.

“Typically speaking, the more multicultural shows don’t perform as well on linear television as they do on (streaming services).”

There are exceptions to that rule, Shulman added, pointing to “Blackish” as one example.

Canadian viewers have also made hits out of “Quantico,” led by Indian film superstar Priyanka Chopra, and Rhimes’s “How to Get Away With Murder.”

“The stars have to align to make sure that you are getting the right show for your brand at the right time, for the right fee,” Shulman said.

“That’s just the nature of our business.”

Follow @dj_friend on Twitter.

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