Sponsored Post: Interview with Bruce Fulcher

When TV, eh? staged our Indiegogo-funded revival last year, one of the perks was a sponsored post in the form of a “Starring You” interview about the donor’s pet project, career, or organization. The following interview is with donor Bruce Fulcher.

First of all, thank you for your support of our Indiegogo campaign. What project would you like to discuss?

BruceFulcher-PIC-2of2Thanks Diane – in this case, I’m my project: I’m currently an Ottawa-based marketing consultant (‘Cognall Marketing Consultancy’), but made a decision last year to focus on developing my career in TV.

I’ve done quite a bit of research – have even developed a couple of pitches for reality shows – have a strong marketing background, and am looking for a marketing opportunity in the industry – either a position or a consulting project.

What kind of experience do you have in marketing that would be of most value to the Canadian TV industry?

More a generalist than a specialist, I’ve quite a strong background in most every area of marketing, particularly in communication – the strategic kind for developing demand and brand profile, not the spin kind – in market planning, and in all areas of market research: attitudinal and public opinion research, as well as market studies to support developing new products and markets, or mergers and acquisitions.

I also have experience developing royalty-based licensing, some familiarity with monetizing IP — primarily trademarks — and quite a lot of experience in business development, developing new clients and new markets.

For the same reasons TV is now becoming known as media-content, there have also been lots of changes in what marketing means and even how it’s measured, especially in communication and research. For example, well done blogs and good content marketing — most social media even — have pretty much become the new mass media. And there are all kinds of new technologies — online and off, not all of them totally proven yet — that can make many research projects faster and less expensive.

And what I think I’ve learned so far about the media-content industry is that my best skills and strongest experience are relevant and useful, and that I also have an awful lot more to learn about the industry. And I feel I can do that.

So why is Canadian TV important to you – assuming it is?

It’s definitely important — and the more you travel, the more you realise how important it really is. Cancon — Canadian media content, on whatever platform — is a major form of our face and soul and self-expression, to ourselves and to the world — hardly an original thought, I know. But the globalised economy has definitely made homemade cultural self-expression a lot more important everywhere, and much more challenging.

I know there’s lots of disagreement on how Cancon should be protected here — but we’re hardly alone in recognising protections are required: I think regulations in Australia, for example, require 50% or more domestic-made content between 6 am and midnight. Even if prominence of prideworthy Cancon wasn’t a regulatory focus, wouldn’t it be almost every Canadian’s first preference anyhow?

Within Canada, the bigger choice and greater access of OTT and streaming services means regulatory challenges are incredibly complex. But it obviously also means a global marketplace for really well planned Cancon productions. The CRTC has the unenviable job of creating rules for a game that has many very different players, and is still in almost constant change.

Until just recently, many seemed to feel that the primary intent of their Cancon regulations was to protect us from our own poor taste and bad judgement.The last few weeks have changed that for good. There are some very bright and committed people over in Gatineau, and I think they work under really difficult conditions — including because they’re accountable for every decision they make to every stakeholder they have. But so much of what they’re hoping to influence today had already changed – probably irreversibly.

What did you think about the recent TalkTV hearing and decisions?

Well that was a massive research project — I’ve managed tons of consultations, and have a lot of sympathy for those who had to synthesize findings. It may have been overly ambitious — asking for too much about too many subjects — but that may also have been their strategy: There’s no doubt that no one in the country is better informed about Canadians’ current perspectives on Canadian TV than the CRTC.

I think they’ll be much more selective and tightly focused in seeking input for their Discoverability Summit — including by testing a couple of underlying assumptions. How badly do Canadians need to be — and want to be — made aware of Cancon productions? Is there likely to be any approach that’s better than some kind of formulaic mix in the way broadcasters traditionally provide programming support — favourable scheduling and promotion — with an added boost investing in social media marketing? As lots of others have pointed out, use of slick algorithmic tools that end up being seen as paternalistic or intrusive could really backfire.

One thing I did find odd — really odd—among their new policies was the decision to enable broadcasters to opt out of current Terms of Trade with content producers.

Realistically, the ability to opt out is an incentive to opt out. A smaller, but stronger production industry was already in the cards — as CRTC had dealt them: Pick and pay will mean some specialty channels will be going dark, elimination of day-time Cancon requirements also reduces some demand, and ‘quality over quantity’ obviously favours the better capitalized producers.

Not sure I see that broadcasters’ need for international market participation — although probably a real need, now or later — was urgent enough to justify immediately rewriting what’s clearly a critical provision in a trade agreement. On this one, I think the CRTC got ‘way ahead of themselves: This one feels like they’re already regulating a smaller but much stronger production industry that hasn’t yet developed.

So what do you see as the way forward for the industry?

For the industry, the changes that are expected — the threats and opportunities — have all been pretty well documented, hashed and rehashed. I think marketing — really strategic, globally focused marketing — is going to matter even more.

It’s hard to see how unbundling and à la carte can mean anything but revenue declines for service providers — the BDUs — either because higher pricing will likely mean lower market penetration, or because strong penetration will likely have to mean lower prices. But price structuring for pick-‘n-pay is still one of the many unknowns. The only sure thing seems to be the likelihood that specialty channels with weak advertising revenues — Book TV seems to be a favourite example – will have to make it, or not, on their own.

I imagine product development – content creation – will have to be extremely market oriented. And since the market’s global, that probably means things like international distribution, partnerships and co-productions are big considerations very early on in concept development. Ironically, I think it could also mean nothing too Canadian in look and feel.

Broadcasters will probably want to develop their own resources and expertise to be able to understand and exploit international markets — even if closer partnerships with well capitalized production companies do develop. And if those kinds of relationships happen, would outright acquisitions of content creators follow — and would that ever be permitted?

One thing about the new ‘quality over quantity’ focus I really wonder about is ratings expectations – much higher ratings domestically — consistently — for bigger budget, quality productions. But exactly what kinds of ratings will be good enough – and assuming what other factors, like promotion? I look at domestic ratings of a number of Cancon shows — and I’m probably really showing my newbyness here — but to me, some of them look pretty darn good, all things considered. I just wonder if it makes sense to collaboratively establish ratings objectives — or at least thresholds — in advance for individual, partnered productions. If good ratings mean everything, what do good ratings mean?

The same issue applies to CRTC’s new funding model – what they call pilot projects. The objective is attracting global audiences, but no success metrics have been specified – at least not yet.

For me personally, I’m obviously hoping someone who’s read this far will follow up with me — will see a fit where I can start contributing immediately — and can keep learning. I know my timing isn’t great — there are lots of talented and more experienced people out there — but I’m obviously determined, I think I’ll make a really strong fit — and this is my goal.

BruceFulcher-PIC-1of2Thank you Bruce, and thanks for supporting TV,eh? Best of luck to you.

Thanks Diane – I appreciate this opportunity.