Everything about Industry News, eh?

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Comments and queries for the week of Sept. 19

How many viewers must a CBC show have (on average) to warrant a renewal? Is there a trend or magic number?@staceyfarber18

Hey Stacey, thanks for the question and congrats on the Saving Hope gig. Can’t wait for your portrayal of Dr. Sydney Katz this season. Television ratings are complicated at the best of times what with the advent of live +7 ratings being taken into account thanks to PVRs and the fact that every network has different expectations from others.

I’m not saying the following are the case at the CBC, but there is certainly concern for a series that garners under 500,000 viewers per week. Another factor may be what a network has lined up in development or already in production; if the thought is that something new may grab viewers more than what’s currently on the air, that can spell the end of a series. An older-skewing television show with lower ratings is always going to be a target for cancellation before one comfortably in the 18-49 demo, a.k.a. the sweet spot for advertisers. And sometimes showrunners or stars decide that it’s time to move on to other things.

I am looking for all three series of Paradise Falls on DVD.Gary

I have some bad news for you Gary. Paradise Falls, which lasted for three seasons on Showcase, is currently unavailable for purchase on DVD.

While I would be happy to see any of these three remaining Amazing Race Canada teams win, I have to applaud Meaghan and Natalie for showing what true sportsmanship is all about. You did not mention in this article that the brother and sister had lost their clue with important information on the task. They asked other teams to help, and I suspect after the manner they had played the last few weeks two of the three other teams were not interested in providing an assist. The hockey ladies chose to share their clue, and possibly put themselves in jeopardy as they had not completed the task yet. These two are already winners in my mind.–Trina

Link: Writers Guild of Canada: Keep Canada’s TV industry strong

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The Writers Guild of Canada (WGC) urges the CRTC to maintain a vibrant, healthy Canadian television industry. A strong industry will ensure the creation of the high quality programs the Commission has stated it desires.

The WGC appeared at the CRTC’s “Let’s Talk TV” hearing today, representing the viewpoint of talented Canadian writers who create shows that millions of fans watch, shows such as Murdoch MysteriesOrphan BlackDegrassi, and Rookie Blue. Continue reading.

WonkReport

Talk TV – Early Hearing Update

If you are at all following Canadian television in mainstream or social media or read TV, Eh? regularly then you know that this week the CRTC started its huge Talk TV public hearing (hearing singular – not plural). It’s huge for two reasons – it covers a wide range of topics but it also has the potential to dramatically change the Canadian broadcasting system.

In my last post on the topic I shared some of the proposals that the CRTC had issued two weeks ago as a way of trying to limit the discussion. They belatedly seemed to realize they were trying to tackle too much. It didn’t really work. Stakeholders are reacting to the proposals but still talking about what they want to talk about so it has still been a huge discussion.

There are a few themes that have come out of the discussion so far. The Chair of the CRTC, Jean-Pierre Blais, wants to hear big picture discussion and not self-serving ‘this is what would be best for us’ and he isn’t getting it. Every stakeholder so far to varying degrees has presented fairly self-serving arguments. This isn’t surprising because each stakeholder’s job is to represent their company or their members’ interests. However, they should also be aware of competing interests and try to present a balanced argument and that isn’t happening.

For example, the Competition Bureau, a government agency tasked with ensuring that “Canadian businesses and consumers prosper in a competitive and innovative marketplace”, argued that the only relevant concern was reducing prices for consumers without any recognition that the CRTC had cultural obligations under the Broadcasting Act. It surprised me that a government body required to uphold legislation would advise another one to ignore its legislation.

Another theme is that no one really knows how consumers will behave if the CRTC implements either of its ‘pick and pay’ choices (Option A being an all Canadian basic with Option B being all-Canadian plus any other services cable and satellite companies want to add but capped at $20, $25 or $30). There are many studies out there but none of them are on point (e.g. the U.S. has a different regulatory system and the Quebec market is pretty different from the rest of Canada).   Without being able to predict consumer behaviour it is pretty hard to make recommendations taking into consideration consequences but stakeholders are trying.

We heard from Bell and others that either option of pick and pay would be the apocalypse. With less drama, concerns were expressed that prices for individual services would have to be higher and therefore consumers would drop many of the services they have now and those services would fail. Corus made the unusual argument that pick and pay is just too complicated for us and we’d be paralyzed by all that choice. We are just not smart enough to handle pick and pay?

Did anyone talk about anything else other than pick and pay? At moments it seemed like no but there have been some stakeholders actually talking about Canadian television programming and the impact that some of these proposals would have on it. Strangely, after years of being ignored, Blais has been focusing on children’s programming.

The CMPA pointed out in its submission that the PNI policy allows broadcasters to shift their expenditure obligation to drama to the detriment of children’s, features and documentaries. Given that private conventional broadcasters do not air children’s programming and public broadcasters are focusing on preschool, there would be few opportunities to watch a full range of children’s programming in a skinny basic. While the Shaw Rocket Fund would like to see conventional services air children’s programming again, Corus would like to see specialty kids services (which they happen to own) in skinny basic.

Even more strangely, Blais chose to argue with the Shaw Rocket Fund about the definition of children’s programming – how could they define it as 17 and under when you can drive at 16? I myself would not argue about kids media with Annabel Slaight (founder of Owl Magazines, Owl TV and chair of the Shaw Rocket Fund) but Blais seemed to be consciously trying to limit CRTC support to the preschool market, abandoning school age and teen age to a choice of either commercial children’s programming (i.e. YTV or Family Channel) or adult programming (e.g. Teen Mom). You can tell what I think about that from the way that I phrased that sentence.

The CRTC tried to limit the conversation about regulating OTT (which is currently exempted under the Digital Media Exemption Order) by not including them in the proposals. The topic inevitably came up though with Google appearing (at the CRTC’s request) on the first day. The Google argument was basically – we have tons of Canadian programming on YouTube so there’s no need for regulation. The problem is that, not being experienced with the CRTC or Blais, they made broad statements about the volume of Canadian content on YouTube but did not have the stats to back up the statements. So Blais asked Google to back up their statements and submit facts and methodology before the end of the hearing on September 19th.

Google has taken no position on whether they are subject to the CRTC. There are competing arguments as to that jurisdiction. Observers are now watching to see how Google handles this request – will they provide any information and tacitly acknowledge jurisdiction or will this be the line they draw and take the position that the CRTC does not have jurisdiction to compel the disclosure.

One last note for now. I think it surprised a few of the content stakeholders to hear the Commission suggest that the proposal to remove daytime Canadian programming exhibition requirements was intended to shift expenditure requirements to prime time programming. Broadcasters can stop producing or commissioning daytime talk shows (which have relatively lower audiences) and put more money into PNI or other prime time programming like Masterchef Canada. Bell, who airs The Marilyn Denis Show and The Social, didn’t think much of that proposal. It should be noted that it would be easy for broadcasters to spend more of their CPE on news, sports and reality so there should not be an assumption that this proposal would benefit PNI.

Conversations are ongoing. If you want to share your thoughts join in on Twitter under the hashtag #CRTC or #TalkTV or the CRTC’s discussion board.

5ft. coaxial cable

Confessions of a cord cutter

Dear Cable,

It’s been 3 1/2 years since we said farewell. I wish I could say I’ve missed you, but I have learned to live without you and be happily commitment-free (except for those three-year contracts for internet and cell phone service).

Why did I break up with you? I’m no gold digger but it just wasn’t worth it anymore.  This will seem strange coming from someone who covers TV and follows the industry but I don’t watch all that many shows regularly. I had the most basic cable package I could get — and I had to pry it out  of my cable provider’s hands; they didn’t want to tell me it was available over the phone — but even then I was paying a lot for a lot of channels I didn’t watch. To get all the specialty channels I did want, I’d have had to go up several price points and get astronomically more channels I didn’t want.

So I was already supplementing my cable back then in order to watch what I wanted to watch.  I wouldn’t even care if what I’m paying now is equal or greater to what I was paying then (it’s not), as long as I was happy with what I had access to (I am).

Cable, I thought I would return to you once I realized how much I missed my Emmy and Oscar viewing, or when it became apparent that I couldn’t access all the shows I want to watch. At the very least I thought I’d set up an over the air antenna. I went so far as to buy a defective one (well, I didn’t know it was defective when I bought it) and return it, then didn’t bother to get another one.

I was surprised how quickly my viewing habits changed.

I became content to watch the shows I could get access to. I arranged award show viewings at friends’ houses or found it wasn’t such a hardship to miss them occasionally. I bought a Breaking Bad season pass from iTunes because that would have been a hardship.

Immediately after the split I was primarily using network websites and apps (and oh how terrible some of those viewing experiences were), but after the post I wrote shortly after breaking up with you I added Netflix and iTunes to my viewing repertoire, gulping entire shows at a  time when I used to swear I wasn’t a binge watcher.

I’m fortunate I’m not a sports fan. I know there are ways to get live sports events without cable but I haven’t had to bother finding out how. I’m also in a fortunate position of getting access to screeners of some shows by some Canadian and US networks. I love you guys. Though you own the cable companies too so … I don’t know. Maybe you could make it easier on me to give you more of my money again.

With the CRTC Talk TV public hearing currently taking place, my head is swimming with all the efforts to woo me back. Not me or my fellow cord cutters specifically, but the CRTC seems very concerned that Canadians find value in our broadcasting system. At least they’re concerned until September 19 and then they don’t want to hear from us any more.

What would it take for me to come back to you, cable? A cheap basic plan with at least the major Canadian networks that I could supplement with only the specialty channels I want. I don’t even care if they’re bundled somewhat, as long as I don’t have to order a ridiculous amount of what I don’t want in order to get what I do want.

I’m considering my options now and I don’t like what I see. Maybe the CRTC can play matchmaker and help us get back together. But I wish you wanted me back without having your hand forced.