Kudos to the folks over at the CBC for taking a crucial first step in the network’s reinvention by using the Toronto International Film Festival as a backdrop to let folks know about the upcoming television season and the brand overall.
Canada’s public broadcaster staked out the corner of King St. West and Blue Jays Way this past weekend, turning what used to be a condominium sales office into a welcome centre called Canada House stocked with snacks, virgin Caesars, phone recharging stations and cardboard fans emblazoned with the iconic network logo and the Twitter message “#FallForCBC.” The stars of CBC’s radio and TV shows rolled through as well, meeting fans, posing for pictures and promoting their projects all weekend long.
The network even had a cool little set-up where those featured folks held press conferences in front of groups of about 50 or so fans at a time. I sat in on the panel for Canada’s Smartest Person, and hosts Jessi Cruickshank and Jeff Douglas described how the interactive program will not only showcase the linguistic, physical, musical, visual, social and logical skills of selected finalists from across the country, but an app will challenge viewers at home.
I also got the chance to interview Dragons’ Den David Chilton and newest panelist Michael Wekerle for an online bit for TV-Eh (I’ll post that when it’s all been edited) and the pair swear the show’s upcoming Season 9 is deserving of your investment of time. Also appearing over the weekend were the stars of Mr. D, Murdoch Mysteries‘ Jonny Harris, Adam Beach, the folks behind The Book of Negroes–which has been adapted into a miniseries—and that Mamma Yamma thing.
The CBC knows it has some catching up to do with regard to connecting with newer and younger viewers. No longer able to sit back and allow NHL hockey to draw in numbers, they’re experimenting with content very unlike CBC. Dark western drama Strange Empire has got great buzz (the rough poster I was shown has a Deadwood feel), co-production sci-fi offering Ascension is definitely not typical CBC fare and historical drama Camp X promises to be thrilling.
Sure the network acknowledges this is somewhat of a rebuilding year, but there was a palpable optimism on Saturday that they are moving in the right direction with content and, even more importantly, connecting with an audience.