More enraged than engaged: Promoting Canadian content

At least it’s not a Royal Commission?

Recently the Canadian Media Production Association posted to their blog an ask for advice and volunteers to help promote Canadian content:

At Prime Time in Ottawa a few weeks ago we provided an update to delegates about a National Promotional Strategy to raise awareness about the great on-screen content produced in Canada. While there are a number of initiatives underway, (creating a platform for access and discoverability, branding), the working group that I co-chair with Barb Williams from Shaw Media has a very specific mandate— and that is to promote the success of Canadian TV, film and second screen content in terms of shows, its creators, talent and economic value. …

The first project involves using social media and online tools (and you as experts and audience) to build a buzz about success stories by reaching a critical mass of grassroots supporters. …

We simply want our initial ideas to be catalysts for grassroots movements and engagement in creating and promoting Canadian success stories.

exploding-head

The problem? They’ve arrived at a tactic before determining the stakeholders or even a measurable goal. Never mind a critical mass of grassroots supporters – have they talked to a grassroots supporter?

I’ve said it before: TV, eh? shouldn’t exist. It ghettoizes Canadian TV. I’d be thrilled if a coordinated strategy could place Canadian shows on the same playing field as their American counterparts, so that the audience, the bloggers, the grassroots and mainstream media know about City’s upcoming Package Deal as much as NBC’s failed Office spinoff, and I could retire and start a site of cat videos. This isn’t that strategy. It’s not a strategy. It’s not even the start of a strategy. It’s the start of alienating people who should have been at the table before that post was written.

I don’t just mean TV, eh? I also mean First Weekend ClubThe Shorts ReportLimited ReleaseThe TV AddictMike’s Bloggity BlogPress Plus 1, etc. – sites either dedicated to various forms of Canadian content or that include Canadian content in their coverage. The CMPA post lists industry groups as stakeholders, but no sites that have a direct connection to the audience they want to reach.

I’ve been promoting Canadian television success stories for seven years and they didn’t think to ask me who the audience for my site is, what efforts I’ve made that have succeeded or failed, what similar sites I know of (or even bother to look at my blogroll), or what I see as barriers to audience engagement. I know that TV, eh? was name-checked at Prime Time (“pretty good”) and they reached out to me after the post was published so ignorance of the site wasn’t an issue. This was a deliberate top-down approach. They made decisions about a grassroots effort without wanting to get any icky grass on their shoes.

Canadian television doesn’t have a shortage of success stories. It has a shortage of credibility.

The CMPA thinks it has to tell individuals to feel free to promote themselves without permission? Twitter — and my inbox — are overflowing with actors, writers, directors, producers, and public relations professionals promoting their latest series, and with industry organizations pumping out information about how amazing their latest project is. Who are these people that they aren’t inundated with everyone from their favourite TV star to their mother trying to push themselves as a “brand”? Can we trade places?

Gosh, you mean the people with a vested interest in the success of a show or the industry as a whole are telling me it’s good? Let me set the DVR.

Promotion isn’t engagement. One of the sites I mentioned above resorted to buying fake twitter followers – that’s how difficult it is to build a large audience when catering to a Canadian audience. And that’s how poorly the concept of engagement is often understood.

The suggestion is to get more industry people sharing success stories. And … then what? If you build it, they will not come. The average audience member isn’t following industry associations on social media, and has little incentive to seek out that kind of information. It’s a closed loop unless the media or one of these grassroots sites or a connected individual picks it up.

Where do success stories come from, the CMPA asks? In great part, they come from all of these sites and people already interviewing, reviewing, passing on information and building community who have no ties to the industry other than an interest or passion, wanting to share with other fans.  Engagement comes from contributing to conversations. It doesn’t come from sharing success stories.

Plus, a success story to the industry is not the same as a success story to the audience. Media releases from networks and industry associations often focus on the arcane – ridiculous parsing of ratings, foreign sales without context – that have little interest for any but the most jingoistic of audience members. And the CMPA post includes many of those examples that will cause the audience to tune out or, more likely, never tune in at all.

What’s my measure of success, as a member of the audience? Do I like the show. And I’ll only get to find out if I know about the show. Absolutely we should share successes, but more importantly we need to foster discussion,  positive or negative, about the shows.

To be fair, the CMPA is asking for advice, and they’re probably sorry they ever asked me to spread the word about that post. This is their invitation for the grassroots to speak up.  But the initial ask is dismissive to those of us who have been doing this work for years without waiting for a coordinating body, and without a vested interest in the success or failure of the Canadian industry.

Because of the way this idea has been launched, it feels like another attempt by industry types to create another bubble where what’s meaningful to them should be meaningful to the audience. Because of the way it’s launched, they’ve demonstrated an aptitude for alienating those they are hoping to engage.

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Diane Wild

Diane is the founder of TV, eh? She loves books, movies, TV, science, space, traveling, theatre, art, cats, and drinking multiple beverages at the same time.
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41 thoughts on “More enraged than engaged: Promoting Canadian content”

  1. When you’re right, you’re right. By the way, in that alternate quantum universe where you went with the cat video site? It became so popular it swallowed the internet, no one was paying attention, North Korea got long range nukes and the world ended on August 5, 2012.

    So on behalf of humanity, thanks for begrudgingly, passionately, and occasionally angrily supporting Canadian TV.

  2. Wholly agree with this post.

    The Canadian Media Production Association is barking up the wrong tree. The people they really need to push to get engaged are the Canadian broadcasting marketing departments that simply do not market Canadian shows. Instead, if I read this correctly, the CMPA wants to absolve the marketers of the responsibility and place it squarely on the shoulders of grassroot organizations to do its job.

    I’m quite sure that is the opposite of the American system that so many at are quick to point to as a barometer for how things should look and run (rightly so in many ways). For instance, AMC, to name one of many examples, is shelling out to promote Mad Men (and did so way back when in its infancy). Is AMC leaving the promotion of its investment to the grassroots level? I don’t think so.

    Perhaps the CMPA can shed some insight into why am I hearing about XIII Season 2 debuting this April 9 (9pm on Showcase, set your PVRS) from a mass email via a person who worked on the show and NOT seeing any advertisements for it? If that’s the grassroots word of mouth marketing strategy CMPA wants everyone to engage in, well small wonder a lot of Canadian shows (even the 6/10) don’t find an audience

    1. XIII.2 was supposed to debut January 4, 2013. Delaying XIII.2‘s debut by three months makes me think a) Showcase wants to follow ReelzChannel’s lead in airing the show, and/or b) Shaw Media’s embarrassed by XIII.2, and wants to bury it.

      What I rarely see is a frank, public discussion of failure – how a struggling show could be marketed better, which promotional strategies aren’t working, whether the broadcaster should be forced to promote a show it has no faith in, whether a show should be promoted past its first week if it’s not catching on with an audience, etc. Instead, the CMPA suggests I should promote a show’s success, for being a successful Canadian show – in other words, maintaining the status quo.

      I don’t want to repeat what others have said, but I will promote a Canadian show if I enjoy it. It doesn’t matter if the show comes from CHCH, Bite, CBC, or Showcase. I wonder if the CMPA is interested in all Canadian success stories, rather than rehashing success stories the Canada Media Fund, Telefilm, major print media et al. have already covered.

  3. I couldn’t agree more. And I gotta wonder just how serious the CMPA really is about this initiative. When the co-chair of a “National Promotional Strategy” is also the buyer Shaw sends South each year to spend hundreds of millions on American programming to fill out their Prime Time schedules, you kinda get the feeling this is more for show than about actually changing anything.

  4. Way to say it Diane! I may not have your back anymore out on the blogs but know you can always count on my back up and support….even if just post comments and RT’s :)

  5. What? I read their entire post and it reads like they are saying, just keep doing what you are doing, but let’s say we are all part of something… Huh? How does that engage a larger audience?

    I agree, the problem isn’t with the audiences, or even the small time press like us not sharing success stories, it’s with the large mainstream press and the large marketing departments. Somewhere they started marketing Canadian product as something we should all pay attention to, like it’s our duty as Canadians. Quit telling us to like something because it’s Canadian, let us like it because it is good.

    1. I think you nailed it with this, “Quit telling us to like something because it’s Canadian, let us like it because it is good.” That’s where the marketer’s job comes in, to sell the show and not its nationality.

      If a show is bad and the broadcaster doesn’t have faith in it, then fine, don’t advertise it. Their American counterparts bury or yank the shows they deem as failures all the time and it’s treated as part of doing business and not as a failure of an entire industry (like it can seem here).

      I also agree that it diminishes the merits of a show if we’re supposed to like it merely because it’s Canadian.

      My issue is when there is little to no advertising at all before a show is out of the gate. How can an audience find a show if they don’t know about it?

  6. Isn’t it possible that they’re not very good at their jobs? I mean, most of the US shows they buy come with lots of promos and magazine covers by the truckload, all done by the U.S. network.

    Maybe they’re bad at selling the stuff because they’re bad at their jobs when they can’t rely on the US to do it.

  7. Oh, Dianne. How I do adore you! There does seem to be a very stuffy old skool (intended) sense of eagerness coming out of a lot of beaurocracts suddenly awakened to the idea that Canada might have an industry worth recognizing. And with any luck at all, they’re start to realize the modern day talents lurking right in their midst. Do they promote GREY’S ANATOMY by sharing excel spreadsheets of the regional impacts of filming in Los Angeles? Is JUSTIFIED promoted from an annual report that outlines the ancillerary second window media that was created for it? Are we all watching HOUSE OF CARDS because the netflix brass wrote earnest letters to their congressmen saying how many crew jobs the show generates for locals?

    There is a mind-boggling head-in-the-sand approach to marketing film and TV in this country. It is not rocket science.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if Adam Beach, Meg Tilly, Missy Peregrym and the hot dude from Arrow could PLEASE trash a hotel room in Toronto in a drug fueled haze and PLEASE record some ambiguos, badly lit sex tapes and upload them to their facebook accounts, we could all enjoy a thriving industry.

    Titter all you want old skool beauro-drats, you know you want to see it.

    Dianne, don’t stop. You’re on the money here! Keep roaring.

  8. That…or they could just try watching these shows and telling their friends and family and followers how much they love them, or hate them or something, anything!

    Marketing class 101 – word of mouth. It works.

  9. Sigh. Now for the 1000 th time I’m going to put on my “get myself in trouble hat” — the one I vow every time I’m not going to put on again.

    Not that she needs anyone to speak for her in any way — just listen to her weekly podcast (something I’d lay money no one at the CMPA does) but as frustrating as it has been for me sometimes, the great thing about talking to Diane about this stuff is that she is always relentlessly audience-focused in her point of view. There are many times when I will make a point where I try to approach it audience-wise, but like a lucid dreamer who keeps getting pulled back into the dream, you talk about Canadian TV enough and you lose clarity, and start to wonk out. And the problem with wonking out about Canadian TV is that half the time you’re trying to build an argument based on quicksand. Everyone in this industry does that.

    Years ago,nobody reported ratings. There still isn’t a regular sharing of all the ratings — what you see Bill Brioux or others report is stuff that someone in a network leaked to him. And those leaks are always subjective. And much of the time they drive an agenda that has nothing to do with the viewer. I mean, does a Canadian viewer really care week to week if eTalk is beating Entertainment Tonight Canada? Not at all. Yet they have a weekly press release and Twitter war. But it’s nearly impossible to get straight talk about what anything means. And there are excuses made everywhere.

    A small industry will always result in fiefdoms and pettiness, but there is a real problem — one that I identified when I first started blogging about Canadian TV — that it’s hard to come by real honest critical writing about Canadian TV. The newspapers are reluctant to do it. When they say something mean, they’re told they should be supporting Canadian TV. When they praise something past where they should because they have an affable relationship with the makers who kiss their asses, any reader who tunes in and goes,”wow this is not great” starts feeling burned. One of the great things about this site is that it’s part aggregator, but lately thanks to one woman’s largely volunteer efforts (and a small coterie of writer-helpers) there is now a baseline of honesty in the reaction to shows. You may not always agree with what Diane likes, but you can be sure that when she writes she liked something, it’s because she liked it. For, like, reals.

    Maybe it’s because we just lost Roger Ebert, but that seems incredibly important to me now.

    Beyond that when we turn to the question of marketing, the thing that cannot be said most of the time is that we actually do know how to promote shows. Having the knowledge and the will are two different things.

    I don’t think I will be betraying my good friends Mark & Stephanie,the creators of FLASHPOINT, if I say that show is a piece of solid, middlebrow, sturdy entertainment. It is not flashy or earthshattering. But it is well made and has always served an audience. And from the beginning, because CTV was proud of it, they advertised and promoted it — not just in promos on the network, but in outdoor and print too. And they kept promo’ing. When they changed timeslots, they promo’d that. There was an audience interest, and CTV let them know where they could find the show, and enough people came back that the ratings went up every year — even after CBS was no longer on board with the show.

    Corner Gas was moved every single year it was on the air. Every one. And people found it. Because they wanted to.

    Even shows that don’t necessarily get the promotion love don’t have to fail if there is built in audience interest. THE LISTENER, whatever you think of it (and I think it’s a far better show now than it was when it premiered) goes away, and comes back,and goes away again, and has episodes delayed, and numbers still creep toward a million. And yes, CTV runs print ads and the occasional billboard for that show too.

    The dirty little secret, that’s wrapped up in the weirdness of Canadian tv is that the viewers are actually quite generous when it comes to sampling a show. They will check you out — once. Then it’s the content’s job to bring you back. Every show everywhere has a big dropoff in week two, as people who sampled fall away — the big question is where the number stabilizes.

    But you have to work to stabilize that number. And that means that you have to keep advertising, and keep running print ads, and your PR firm has to get screeners out to journos,and follow up, and get the date and the time right, and spell the names of the cast right, and make them and creatives available for interviews, and have ready-to-post or print effective gallery shots. (This seems like 101 stuff but ask Diane how often and consistently she gets this information about Canadian shows and her answer may surprise you.)

    When it comes to promo, too often we devolve into what I call “anti-advertising.” You know what this is even though I’ve coined that phrase — it’s when you tune in the Comedy Network and all you ever see is the same generic promo over and over and over to the point where you hate it, because it’s so familiar. There’s a reason why U.S.nets after a show launches mostly do episodic specifics week to week. If you didn’t like Charlie Sheen saying he was “very very pretty” the first time, that joke won’t age well on the 10 000th repetition.

    The one time I got a show on the air, I had friends at the Canadian network who, because they were my friends, pushed to do episodic specific promos for the show. And they were great and intriguing — and then they were asked to stop doing them by Episode 3 because the priority was the U.S. shows they’d bought that they’d simulcast.

    Back in the day, RELIC HUNTER, which did well — always had an episodic promo week to week. And you would pull people in sometimes because THAT WEEK’S STORY looked fun.

    This is not rocket science. But it does mean you have to allocate the resources and do the work.

    Part of the in-the-trenches reflection of the frustration that Diane shows in her rant above is the fact that the structure of this industry means we are too often starting in the wrong place. When you start with writers, directors, and actors — creative talent — and promote that, people get it. They understand what those people do and what they want — they want their work to be seen, and they want it to be good. There is a bridge to be built between audience and there if we have the will to do it.

    Less so between industry associations, and Telefilm, and the CMF, and the CRTC, and the boardrooms of TELUS and BELL and people who will explain that this means success, and spin that actually that means success, and nets that really make their money doing X rather than showing this show or that — and this is actually a hit because we say it is and this person is someone you love even though you really don’t but we do because they go to the same restaurant we go to in Yorkville or Gastown or the Glebe.

    I’ve often said that the primary problem we have in Canada is that we don’t really have a TV industry, we have a TV bureaucracy industry — and you see that well at work in this weird, tone-deaf, top down, let’s pretend it’s 2003 approach to “outreach” such as it is.

    The audience is never concrete here. There is an audience for Canadian TV. Empirically we can say so — in the era where numbers for all shows are going down we have more shows drawing more viewers and holding their own against big budgets. But the dissonance factor comes where those who hold the power and the strings do not see the differences that any member of the audience sees — they don’t see the difference between anticipation or buzz for something like Lost Girl, or Orphan Black or Rookie or Flashpoint, or Continnuum or even Bomb Girls, and some of the shows that are missing the mark. We do have to love our redheaded stepchildren, but not to the extent that we scold the audience for not loving them too.

    The way forward would be to put the audience and, by extension, the bridge to the audience — the actors, directors, writers — who make the shows — who do the thing that people can relate to — at the centre of the discussion.

    But we’re not. And they’re not. It’s bureaucrats, the head of this fund, the head of that fund, this chair of Bell or Regulatory VP for Rogers, or this CRTC commissioner or that Executive VP of English Language Programming on Cellphones and Toasters, Comedy & Brand Integration Division. Oh, and while we’re at it, let’s have some more money for training and also why don’t we profile this tax credit specialist, because I had a great meal with them at Canoe two months ago. Oh, and let’s talk about the digital component too because why not, let’s throw another thing into the mix that we’re not going to promote properly.

    The people talk only to themselves, while the audience shrugs, chooses, moves on, and moves off as they always have.

    Although, Kellie Ann is right about another thing — a badly lit sex tape would probably help. Come on, pretties. Take one for the team!

    The point (and I do have one) is that if the CMPA had started by calling together all the people from the groups namechecked in Diane’s column above, that would have been an unprecedented audience outreach, and the thing we never do in Canadian TV. The fact that they proceeded the way they did shows how far we really have to go. Or maybe it doesn’t. Because the other dirty little secret of Canadian TV is that the messed up status quo? It works for everybody but the audience, and the people who are hands-on making the shows.

    And until that changes, we’ll have to settle for the occasional show connecting with the audience by accident, and creatives will continue to have to decide if it’s worth putting up with this BS, or if it’s easier just to hire an immigration lawyer.

    1. Private broadcaster, when asked why the show I worked on got no promos on air or outside ads said, “Canadian shows are a tax we have to pay so we can put on American shows and sell ads. We aren’t going to put any more into it than you would volunteer extra money on your income taxes.” That was 6 yrs ago but I haven’t seen much change. I begged a private broadcaster to get a different show the bus shelters & TTC ads they bought for their imports. I was told the cost of the import meant it HAD to be promoted to justify the buy. We will never win in this until the privates fill the Go Station etc. with Canadian shows the way they do with American. Often the Canadian shows are better. Sometimes they drop millions promoting sitcoms that last less than 4 weeks. The onus on promo is on the network, and while their are exceptions like Flashpoint & Corner Gas, most Canadian shows on private networks are treated like unwanted bastard children they’d rather hide than celebrate.

      1. Happens on the public broadcaster too. We didn’t have a single poster anywhere in Canada and we resorted to buying our own ads because the comment we’d get most from people was “never even heard of the show.”

        We were told from the get-go that our show was an experiment in attracting a younger, more urban audience, but was followed up by no advertising except for on air promos… Which aren’t going to attract anyone already not watching.

        They must have realized their mistake, since nothing from that fall launch survived, and the following spring there were red carpet launches, huge poster campaigns, etc, and it resulted in huge ratings, proving that advertising works.

    2. This is pretty much the most concise, compact and nuanced discussion of what is wrong with our ‘industry’ that I have even seen. The core idea that everything is actually working out just fine for a very small group of people and companies, is the root of the system’s (horribly flawed) stability and perpetuation. The audience are not really part of the ‘success’ equation here in Canada. Canadian media has always operated on a ‘fish in a barrel’ principle, it’s about territory, not content.

      Thanks for keeping on putting it out there McGrath, and thanks for TV-eh? for stirring it up. We could use some of this over in features but it feel it may be way too late at this point.

    1. I don’t get this comment. Whose petulance? What does “jump on the new entrants” and “exploit their networks to grow your respective distribution” mean? No one cares about process or success stories unless they work in the industry. The CMPA is ultimately trying to reach the audience.

  10. Wow. “Petulance.” Chapeau doffed. The most hilariously sad unintentional revelation of a worldview I’ve read in quite a while. Poor white hats, having to deal with all these greasy petulant people telling you you’re completely out to lunch.

  11. I agree with Mr. Hazlett, you Diane have provided a forum for a frank discussion to take place. And I understand how Mr. Galipeau could find all of this spit & vinegar a little daunting, because it is. Because the creatives in this country have been scratching their heads, or packing their bags now for decades while the beaurocracts go ‘hey, we invested in training, what more do you people want?’

    But I do hope that any of the beaurocracts actually reading these comments will begin to see is that success, measurables, charts, graphs, annual reports are the business side of show business, that aren’t really meant for the public.

    And it’s the public who are meant to see the things that myself, Mr. McGrath, Mr. Watts, Mr. Hazlett, Ms Wild, Mr. Dixon, Mr. Henshaw and the rafts of other fiercely proud Canadian creatives are writing. We write for the audience, and in Canada, that’s who is getting the short shrift in all of this.

    Keep the beaurocracy (and the success charts) in the boardroom, make promoting the best in Canadian TV and Film to the audience the priority.

    1. Reading all these comments, I’m a little perturbed. I actually tend to think that most of the Canadian networks and cable channels are doing a better job at promotion. On Hockey Night In Canada, CBC series are often name checked. I just finished watching an episode of Hawaii Five-0 on my DVR and saw a commercial for Bomb Girls. I was on TVLine and there have been a few articles about Orphan Black (yes, I know it’s for BBC America but many Canadians do look at American sites). And another argument I wanted to make is that many American shows also encounter the same problem–promotion. If I had a looney for every time an American (or Canadian) fan on the various TV sites complains about a show getting very little promotion in the States I’d be rich. All networks, be they north or south of the border, play favourites. They either give very little promotion for a show and/or they put it in a very bad time slot. Recall Last Resort or Jericho or this season the very badly scheduled Revenge. And then there’s the other argument, that advertising a show has less importance every year. People tune into new shows at certain times of year based on their title and description on the guide and whether or not any other shows they like is on. I’ve observed several people doing this. My other half pages up and down the guide until he sees something with an interesting title then clicks info and if there’s potential he’ll hit enter and watch 5 minutes to decide if it’s a keeper or not. Last night it was Yukon Men. I’ve seen my mother do the same thing. I tend to do this when I’m watching the TV with other people who aren’t into the series I have saved on my pvr.

  12. I didn’t get into the issue of Canadian networks not promoting Canadian content because it’s outside the scope of the CMPA ask. Should it be, with a network on the steering committee? No, so go to it with commenting on that side of the issue. But I can’t do anything directly about making networks see the business need for making and promoting Canadian content.

    Sites like this can help with engagement. Some of the sites I listed would have no interest in promoting Canadian content just because it’s Canadian. They cover what they like, what their audience wants to hear about, and what they’re given good tools to promote (eg interviews with actual stars, giveaways, cool embeddable videos, etc.)

    Asking me to promote a web series based on a TV show isn’t engagement. Finding a way to get fans creating content for you and using sites like this not just to promote but as partners could be, for example. Helping me find non-fawning-fans willing to write thoughtfully about shows or do interviews could be another. Get Mike’s Bloggity Blog or The TV Addict some great contest giveaways. Give us all access to stars, not just the producer who’s willing to talk to the poor cousin blogs.

    The last thing I need is more effing success stories. I need more authenticity. I’m sick to death of everything in Canadian TV wanting a ribbon just for showing up.

  13. When we talk about the Canadian TV industry, the discussion is usually exclusively about prime time. But the channels targeted to kids/tweens do a VERY good job of promoting homegrown shows. If I weren’t in the industry, I wouldn’t know which shows were American and which Canadian. I wonder why there’s such a difference?

    Ironically, I often see huge billboards for Canadian prime-time shows in New York (BEING HUMAN is on every bus and subway), but none at home.

    1. I`m left to wonder the same thing myself. However, what I notice about Netflix, for example, is that Canadian and American dramas are grouped together under the TV Dramas category and it makes me think the lines between American and Canadian TV are becoming somewhat blurred. Sci-fi genre shows, like Being Human, Orphan Black and Continuum seem to be gaining ground on cable in both Canada and the U.S. What shocked me though was how good of ratings Continuum got in Canada, especially for a genre show which had not yet aired or been promoted in the States. Can anyone explain to me that? I found out about Continuum through TV Eh and that’s why I watched it but how does that explain everyone else?

      You`d think that since a Canadian network is required to produce/air a show that it would be to their benefit to promote it. However, with this recent renewal of everything on CBC I wonder if maybe the main aim of Canadian nets is not to secure first-run viewership but hold out for syndication. Look at Heartland. That show was on constantly on various channels at various times in syndication and of any Canadian drama, it’s the one I’ve heard other people talking about the most yet i see very little news articles and such about it.

      1. The main goal of CBC is not to secure first run viewers or syndication: it’s to continue to secure parliamentary funding. High ratings help but they will never be high enough to payoff the programming. The privates are of course rebroadcasters who produce as little Canadian content as possible and their only incentive to promote it is bragging rights and to keep the CRTC happy. No network in Canada lives or dies by producing programs, and thus no network in Canada has a strong incentive to promote effectively.

  14. I worked in Kids’ TV for a Kid centred network. With a couple of high profile exceptions, my comedy had as high or higher numbers than the American imports. New episodes often topped 200,000 viewers. Huge number for cable kids’ show. It got multiple award noms. It got press, which we were grateful for, from people like Bill Brioux, God bless him. I could not get the network to buy ads in bus shelters, or billboards, newspapers, kids’ websites or do audience or internet contests. I could not get them to cut together show specific promos. They did all these things for American imports.It was so discouraging to get on a TTC bus in Sept. and see it filled with the network’s promos inside and out for their American shows, with no mention of us. The reason they didn’t do it for us was because we were Canadian. On a Canadian network. This is a fact. I hope this is changing.

    1. Gary — That’s interesting, and sad. My comment was based mostly on my experience as a parent. I’ve been begged for Caillou toys, quizzed about edgy issues on Degrassi, and everything in between. All the kids I know seem to watch and like Canadian shows. (BTW, yours was a huge hit in our household).

      More credit to you for finding your audience without help.

      1. Thanks Lisa! I appreciate that. Yes, my kids are the same. They routinely watch Canadian shows without thinking about it. So that’s good. Now they are getting older so it gets tricky since the Canadian shows are harder to find than the American ones. My son likes Chicago Fire, so I showed him Arctic Air, which was a perfect fit. He loves it. My teen daughter likes Grey’s, so I made sure she saw Bomb Girls, which she loves. The shows are there, the work is good. We just have to get the networks more behind the Canadian shows.

  15. There’s definitely a division between the “creatives” and the “executives”, and I think this conversation kind of exposes that.

    Denis mentioned earlier the yearly time-slot change with Corner Gas. I had no involvement with that show, but I remember from where I sat it felt like CTV was trying to shake the numbers, like they didn’t want a hit show.

    Now, that’s absurd.

    On the other hand, I remember CTV explaining the time-slot changes as being a way to test the show’s strength.

    But, that’s equally absurd. Why would you fuck with something that works?

    There is very little communication between networks and creatives about any of this. That’s what needs to change.

    When a show fails, both sides blame each other, without discussing why it failed, and tempers flare, bridges are burned (of this, I’m extremely guilty).

    But it shouldn’t be that difficult to include everyone involved in every step of the process. From my personal experience, it can be very frustrating taking network notes during the production of a series, then passing the show off to the network and not being involved in the discussion on how to market the show.

  16. It took me two or three reads of that press release to figure out what the initiative was and it doesn’t make any sense to me. The horn blowing press releases one often sees are always bizarre — i don’t think there has ever been a show released that isn’t the best at something. Most web hits, best Tuesday night cable hit in three years etc.

    They all seem like meaningless accomplishments (or at least accomplishments that the audience doesn’t care about) and are certainly not gong to bring viewers to a show. It’s like trying to promote a hockey team by trumpeting some players plus minus stats and saying that because he has a positive number we should watch.

    Your site has value because it actually informs people about what’s on TV and talks a little about it. You allow people the chance and the choice to be interested. This “we are good” stuff is not helpful, it is off putting.

    The best gauge as to whether the show is doing well (in a commercial TV sense) is going out for lunch or drinks with one of the cast members and seeing if anyone recognizes them

  17. Recognize too (as old What’s her name– just kidding) Diane — does, that we are part of that problem too, as creatives. Everytime you whine about a bad review to the reviewer (oh that more of us had done theater) you contribute to that. When you demand praise for “showing up,” as Diane says.

    It should be self evident that Orphan Black & Bomb Girls are different, as is Flashpoint, even TPB — shows that reach and fulfill an audience’s expectations. But it’s not. Because we’re skewed from years of ping ponging between overpraise for the mediocre, and overharsh for the middling.

    i think we are at a point now where the audience is sophisticated enough (an unpopular view right there in Canadian snobby circles) that they can smell when they’re being condescended to, or when something is put together and stitched up with tax credits and synergy rather than creative vision.

    We don’t support each other, and we allow ourselves to be set upon one another. Because we don’t demand our voice and because we continually bleed our best and brightest it allows others to miscategorize our talents and efforts.

    But that poison goes down deep at the network level too. Plenty are the tales of the delusional who go to the LA screenings and buy US product and come back like what they bought is something to be proud of — and that they were geniuses for buying it — an effort that is transactionally indistinguishable from renting a video.

    And somehow we get locked into this system where the most important thing is to go screaming to the CRTC for relief, or for protection, rather than finding out more about the audience we’re supposed to serve.

    Stations apply for “must carry…” isn’t that delicious? Is there any more obscene phrase for our business in this age? “must carry?” While cords are being cut left and right?

    Canada isn’t a haven for innovation. It just isn’t. But the degree to which we are trailing edge in TV trends is almost comical.

    There is no bureaucratic, “Canadian” solution to any of this. If the CMPA was smart they would recognize this and engage with the front line people who are earnestly trying to watch, and like, shows — not because they are Canadian and watching them makes them a good Canadian, but because they might be good, and the system is broken because they don’t hear enough about them.

    The winner in Canadian content will be whoever lets the audience find the creatives and their output as just one more choice in the vast ocean, but a choice that is worthy because its sensibility and reference points feel familiar. Like home.

    The rest is a noisy wank built around preventing the above from happening.

  18. Commenting on this thread intimidates me, but I am clearing my throat to say this one small thing.

    As one of Diane’s “writer-helpers” I have asked a lot from her as a mentor-editor in order to keep me honest about what gets posted under my name on the site. I often find myself in between a rock and a hard place as trying to simultaneously review your betters, and build a bridge into their writing rooms are not always conducive behaviours. Each time I run up against this wall Diane gives me an option: “write the truth, or humbly bow out”. Each time, she is right, and it pushes me to consider my motivations for writing about Canadian TV, and whether I fall victim to the promotion by Canadian Attendance trap. When I choose to write a review, it is honest, and when I press submit with a trembling finger, I feel excited about the fact that the truth is out there (yeah, that happened) and that a discussion may be opened. Diane, and many of the top TV writers in this country have encouraged me to say my piece, with tact and genuine interest, and that its OK for me to do that…out loud! I truly appreciate that.

    I believe that honest reviews are necessary, and wonderful and horrible and difficult, and Diane upholds that value every time. Since I’ve read this entire thread and see that there are many people singing her praises, my voice will hopefully only complement the chorus nicely.

    I would hope that others will pick up this mantle – specifically the ones who should have been doing it all along. That we, as Canadians, will find our voices to speak the truth whilst at the same time not feed the trolls, and enter into an honest and engaging discussion about Canadian TV shows, and that the problems will melt into challenges with solutions. (Now i’m just building utopia in my head).

    More wine now, OK?

    1. Of this site you mean? I can’t track that kind of demographic. Anecdotally, many visitors are irregular and drawn to posts about a specific show so anywhere from Tweens (Skatoony and The Next Star are big draws) on up (seniors who comment on posts about Mike Holmes to fix their homes); regular visitors tend to be hardcore fans of one or more shows who don’t want to miss news about them, students, industry folks and people who want to work in the industry, and people who support the concept of CanCon, so the extreme ends of that age range seem to drop off. Active commenters (including tweets & FB) whose ages I know are from early 20s to around mid 50s.

      Not sure that helps with your question much?

  19. Pardon me for repeat points.

    I agree wholeheartedly with most all that was mentioned above and have some of my own thoughts as well. It got me fired up. But when I went to read the actual press release or more like free labour request, I found myself laughing.

    “The stories can be economic or financial in nature. For example we can take data available from resources like Profile: An Economic Report on the Screen-based Production Industry in Canada to find important nuggets of information to share. For example…Success: Did you know the screen-based industry created 132,500 jobs last year?”

    This is great for the business section during an election when we’re fighting possible funding cuts, but no audience member cares! And while this here discussion is great, and I will tweet it to my 36,000+ followers, none of them will read it (no offense to you Diane, I’ve always enjoyed your site and love how testy it has become more recently). Because none of this is about the audience.

    This “grassroots” talk is just bureaucratic cover for “we have no interest in spending money or putting our own time in to this” They have no budget for software, but ‘Prime Time’ has just switched from an Apple app to a web based format. Nice. Why are they just reaching out to industry insiders? Why haven’t I or any of my colleagues who are faces of the industry with scores of eyes and ears at the ready been contacted? With all their requests for advisement it seems like this group’s having a dinner party, but no one bought the food.

    I’ve long felt that CRTC’s cancon regulations should not only demand a percentage of airtime, but that the nets should also have to to allocate a a comparable percentage of their advertising and marketing budget to their Canadian shows. This doesn’t guarantee a hit by any means, but audiences need to know a show is on. Sure, as mentioned above, in some cases a rabid audience will find a roaming Corner Gas, just as I’ll find Survivor on Wednesdays now (sorry, It’s my one necessary reality show, forgive me). There are other shows I enjoy, but only know where they are because I’m told so. I like them, I just don’t actively seek them out. I know this is a lot to ask, but I think with some time it could pay off. I also think that if the networks have more cash at stake then they’re going to fight for a better product, rather than develop a show for two to three years, water it down, shoot a pilot and then say “You know, our mandate/the market has changed and this isn’t for us anymore”

    There is nothing sexy about foreign second-window buyers. We need to be pitching journos stories, not ratings. The Bomb Girl who’s also a cafe owner, the Imaam and the crown-corp exec. Some years back there was a very short-lived trash mag, Slice or something, and it was just fluff, nothing FUN. I remember thinking “You know if I called them about what all those kids on that storied eastend street school were up to, or sent them a copy of my underage public intoxication ticket, they’d have a story, some readers”

    People just want their interest peaked, whether it’s fictionalized on screen or documented on paper. They’ve dealt with numbers all day at work, let’s give them words.

    (Also, Diane, I can’t recall why the interview never happened, but I swear I wouldn’t expect praise just for showing up, only for being generally fantastic)

    1. Thanks for the great comments. I take no offense – my mandate for the site is to stick to the shows, not the industry stuff, so when I do venture into this territory I know none of us are speaking to the average tv fan. But if I don’t vent sometimes my head will explode, and I know the industry-focused part of this site’s readership might be interested at least.

      I don’t know who that CMPA post was supposed to be directed at or why they didn’t approach potential partners/stakeholders before posting. I don’t know why they reached out to me when they have no interest in the tv watching public’s engagement – what they mean by audience is not what I mean by audience, and I have no ties to or influence with government or funding stakeholders.

      In the last podcast Anthony pointed out that fans care about story and stars. Period. And what is clear to everyone but the people involved in this initiative: “story” means in the show, not industry stories.

      [If I recall correctly the interview with you was the one time I had to bail because of a dayjob crisis – you could rant about me for that. Oh and you should expect an email asking for an interview soon :)]

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