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Link: NFL in Court to Stop U.S. Super Bowl Ads on Canadian TV

From Etan Vlessing of The Hollywood Reporter:

NFL in Court to Stop U.S. Super Bowl Ads on Canadian TV
The NFL has gone to court to stop Canada’s TV regulator from forcing the CTV network to air United States Super Bowl telecast commercials.

The league instead wants the CTV to continue maximizing Super Bowl ad revenue with homegrown ads to boost the value of the Canadian broadcast rights for the next time they come up for renewal. Continue reading.

W Network orders Season 2 of Game of Homes

From a media release:

Corus Entertainment announced today the renewal of W Network’s hit series, Game of Homes, with Great Pacific Media. Game of Homes (8×60) gives skilled amateur home renovators a chance to parlay their skills into the prize of a lifetime – a house and a plot of land. The second season heads across the country to the Toronto area, with four new teams of amateur home renovators turning rundown houses into their dream homes, room-by-room. Production begins on Game of Homes Season 2 in mid- September and it is scheduled to air in 2016 on W Network.

In Season 2, these dilapidated houses, slated for the wrecking ball, will be uprooted and transported to the Toronto area. The teams will work side by side, around the clock, to completely transform these dumps into show homes while also living in them. They will battle small budgets, tight deadlines, cramped quarters and each other for a chance to win a home and change their lives forever.

Casting for Season 2 is currently underway. People interested in applying to be on the show can visit wnetwork.com/be-on-tv or gameofhomestv.com

How do you solve a problem like Netflix?

When new Bell Media head Mary Ann Turcke told a telecom conference that Canadians accessing US Netflix through VPNs were “stealing,” she added to the cacophony of Canadian broadcast voices trying to solve the problem of Netflix.

But what is the problem, exactly?

First of all, it’s debatable that VPN use to circumvent geoblocking is “stealing.” And beyond that, it’s debatable that the problem is Netflix as opposed to a broadcasting model that’s evolving faster than the regulations governing it.

Mat Brechtel
Mat Brechtel
Mat Brechtel is a lawyer with Bull Housser in Vancouver specializing in intellectual property rights. “From my review of the Copyright Act I haven’t seen a section that would make it illegal.”

Until a test case is brought to court, he thinks its legality will remain an open question unless new legislation is passed to specifically address circumventing geoblocking, similar to the section added to make illegal circumventing digital locks on CDs and DVDs, for example.

“It might be possible to use the argument that using a VPN is technological protection measure avoidance [same as digital locks], so the argument might be that it’s caught by that section of the Copyright Act, but I don’t think that’s likely. I think where we’re at right now, it’s not against any of the Copyright Act to use a VPN,” said Brechtel.

“Frankly I’d love to see someone try to argue that it’s against that section of the Copyright Act, but I think ultimately they’d end up losing.”

It’s unlikely even Turke is interested in criminalizing the audience, circa the 2003 music recording industry. Her remarks seemed intended to educate the public, many of whom aren’t aware — or don’t care — that circumventing geoblocking is an issue at all.

What IS the issue?

Michael Hennessy
Michael Hennessy
Michael Hennessy, the outgoing head of the Canadian Media Production Association, which represents the independent producers who own much of the content we see on our television screens, defines what that issue is: “The whole broadcast business is based on territorial rights. A broadcaster gets certain rights to a  program for a certain period of time and they monetize that program through a platform or platforms.”

Some of that money goes to the broadcaster, some to the cable carries, some to producers and creative rights holders. “If you use a VPN to access US Netflix, what happens is that money is not going back to the Canadian rights holders and you’re reducing the revenues that used to flow into the system.”

How do you sustain a Canadian broadcasting system when Canadians aren’t getting the money from shows Canadians watch? So far Canadian networks don’t seem to be looking at homegrown shows as the solution.

Hennessy is no advocate of a widely discussed “Netflix tax” to bring funds into the industry from the unregulated streaming service, but he believes there is a need for a robust discussion on whether and how to regulate “over the top” services like Netflix in the Canadian broadcast world.

The CRTC’s recent Talk TV hearing wasn’t that robust discussion — and in fact Netflix and Google testimony was stricken from the record when they refused to provide the CRTC with requested information. If that’s the stick the CRTC has to work with — saying “LALALA CAN’T HEAR YOU” — there may need to be a whole lot of carrots to bring streaming services to the table of those discussions.

Right now, the carrot seems to be coming from outside the regulated system. Netflix is a relatively new player in commissioning original content; House of Cards debuted in 2013. They’ve started putting money into Canadian productions such as Trailer Park Boys, Degrassi and Between, with more waiting in the wings. Is regulation necessary if they end up willingly having more original Canadian content at any one time than, say, Global does?

One of these things is a lot like the others

Right now it’s Netflix causing so much “sky is falling” rhetoric from various players in the Canadian TV industry, but it’s really the shift in content delivery that has some of us seeing a future where Canadian broadcasters are the dinosaurs and streaming video the comet. If the Canadian industry were nimble and innovative they might not have waited years after Netflix’s arrival to bring out their own streaming services — services that weren’t even launched in a way that was competitive with the US behemoth. Even now, some industry players shortsightedly dismiss YouTube as cat videos and Amazon as a minor player.

Regardless, Hennessy points out that the dividing line between streaming services and broadcast is getting thinner and thinner as the means of providing content moves further towards broadband — including mobile, streaming and IPTV — versus cable.  “Does that mean where we see all growth and evolution of the broadcasting system we aren’t going to regulate at all, but we will continue to have taxes and regulation in the bricks and mortar world?” Hennessy asks.

And as the difference between streaming and broadcast becomes more technical than practical, have we already, without real debate or thought, decided that foreign ownership of our industry is OK with us?  Another question Hennessy has is: “If we’re willing to allow the largest future broadcasters to enter Canada on an unregulated basis, why do we have foreign ownership rules placed on Canadian broadcasters?”

What can be done? What should be done?

If something is to be done to force a service like Netflix into the regulated system, lawyer Brechtel  says the CRTC is limited by its mandate, but the federal government could introduce laws to make circumventing geoblocking illegal, for example, or go to the extreme of trying to block sites like Netflix if they don’t cooperate with Canadian broadcasting regulations.

Brechtel thinks that step is likely premature. “VPN, geoblocking, and Netflix are new technologies that probably aren’t ripe for some hammer of a legislative intervention to come in. It’s probably worth letting the industry mature a bit before anyone decides what should or shouldn’t be done.”

He doesn’t buy the argument that restrictions on access to sites such as US Netflix would put Canada in the same league as countries like China who block access to sites for ideological reasons, pointing out that Canadians’ freedom of speech has restrictions too, but that isn’t equivalent to blocking tanks in Tiananmen Square. “It’s all a matter of degrees.”

“We get people calling all the time who’ve been the victims of all sorts of online bullying or violence and all sorts of things. Unfettered internet use can be just as harmful as over-control. So it raises a lot of difficult questions. As we go through it, it’s good to tread lightly until we understand the effects of what we’re doing.”

“The legislative balance chosen for the TV broadcasting era might not be the right balance for the internet era,” said Brechtel. “If we really want to keep a focus on Canadian content we’re going to have to find a new mechanism to do it.”

“It’s a new area and it’s very grey. All the more fun for people like me.”

W Network partners with Mark Burnett and Insight Productions on New Series Pilot, Destination Detour

From a media release:

Corus Entertainment’s W Network announced today an agreement with Mark Burnett, United Artists Media Group, Omnicom Canada Corp.’s Highway Entertainment and Insight Productions to develop a new series format and pilot episode of the travel-reality series, Destination Detour(working title). The format is being developed for Canadian and international markets and will air on W Network in 2016.  Production of the one-hour pilot, begins in August in Ontario, Canada.

Destination Detour  takes three couples on what they expect will be their own meticulously planned, once in a lifetime dream vacation but throws a major curveball into their plans. The three couples from vastly different walks of life, personal interests and temperaments must face this massive detour head-on. The couples will be immersed in worlds they never dreamed of entering and face challenges that will scare, excite and ultimately redefine them. Only time will tell if the couples embrace this Destination Detour or if it will turn out to be a holiday from hell.

Fresh TV and DHX team for Family’s Backstage

From a media release:

Fresh TV today announces start of production on a new Family Channeloriginal performing arts school drama, Backstage. The 30-episode, half-hour scripted series (shot docudrama-style) will follow a group of outstandingly talented teenagers as they live through the highs and lows that come with attending the prestigious Keaton School of the Arts – from the angst and disappointments to the new friendships and crowning achievements. The series films this summer in Toronto, beginning today, and is slated to debut on DHX Television’s Family in Spring 2016.

Through diary-style confessionals and dramatic cliffhangers, Backstage will lift the curtain on these would-be stars as they chase their dreams and deal with the day-to-day reality of being a student, a sister, a son, a girlfriend — a teen. Every episode will be jam-packed with dance, instrumental and vocal performances from rehearsals to concerts to opening nights.

Featuring an all-Canadian cast, the series stars Devyn Nekoda (Degrassi) as Vanessa, a gifted ballet dancer; Alyssa Trask as Carly, a dancer who is stuck in her best friend Vanessa’s shadow; Aviva Mongillo as Alya, an incredible singer who lacks confidence; Joshua Bogert as Miles, a mysterious musician with a big secret; Colin Petierre as Sasha, the school’s biggest gossip; Julia Tomasone as Bianca, who is being groomed by her casting director mother as “the next big thing”Matthew Isen as Jax, a charming DJ and musician; Kyal Legend as Julie, the school president; McKenzie Small as Scarlett, a talented singer with a big ego; Romy Weltman as Kit, a DJ and musician who is fighting to garner recognition for her talents; Isiah Hall as Denzel, a fashionable designer; and Adrianna Di Lielloas Jenna an eager ballet dancer, always ready to seize an opportunity.

Backstage was created and developed by Fresh TV in association with DHX Television. Executive Producers are Brian Irving, who is also a producer; Jennifer Pertsch, who is also the creator, co-developer and a writer; Lara Azzopardi, who is also a co-developer, show runner, writer and director;Tom McGillis and George Elliott.