Canadian TV Will Never Be The Same

Let's Talk TV iconThe CRTC, the government body responsible for regulating television and telecommunications in Canada, has put forward changes to what we’re going to be able to watch on TV and how to get it. I don’t think things will ever be the same.

That’s cued up a lot of doom and gloom from people in the television industry. But it’s too early to know what really will happen and it’s also not a bad thing to change.

The two biggest decisions from the CRTC’s “Let Talk TV” discussion came this month. The first is that rules about how much Canadian content (CanCon) channels have to show during the day is changing. Standard channels, like CTV, Global, and CityTV, will no longer need to show Canadian shows during the day (there are still local programming requirements) and only need to maintain a quota of 50% CanCon during evening primetime. The CRTC is instead asking broadcasters to produce the highest quality Canadian shows it can making Canadians excited to watch homegrown shows, and hopefully to bring acclaim to Canadian storytellers.

The other big change is that there will be a “skinny basic” cable package offered next year which will be only local channels (like CTV, Global, CBC, CityTV) and “must-carry” chanels like The Weather Network, AMI, and APTN. (Note: I did recently work for AMI.) Other channnels, from things we consider standard cable networks right up to specialty and pay channels will then be offered in a variety of packages small and large, and on a pick-and-choose basis (some of this may vary by cable provider).

The first change about how much Canadian content is produced has some people claiming the nation’s television industry will disappear. I’m not quite buying it. There’s still going to be local news and programming, there’s still going to be scripted drama and comedy produced because networks HAVE to spend money on programming under the new rules (as they do now, on top of quota requirements) but there could be fewer shows. My guess is shows during the daytime like Cityline and “U.S. Reality Show-Canada” will be ones to get cut, though only time will tell.

The second change means cable channels are going to be pitted against one another more. If the Golf Channel isn’t getting money from being packaged with other channels and can’t entice enough people to buy it as a standalone channel it might disappear. Same goes for History, or that channel that shows beautiful photos of trees and oceans. The change here is that some channels could be surviving only because they’re in cable packages with channels people actually want. The pick and pay model may see channels fail to garner any interest on the open market. And, yes, that could mean some jobs are lost. (Though, a few of those cable channels don’t even produce much in the way of original content, or programming is duplicated across a company’s many cable channels, so fears here could also be overblown.)

Unfortunately, as important as the cultural aspects of television programming reflecting the Canadian sensibility, political climate, and ideas is, it doesn’t mean everyone is entitled to a job in the industry. I think these changes will result in some reductions in Canadian content, but we’ll still have plenty of Canadian shows to watch and channels to choose from. And the storytellers and producers who want to be a part of the cultural conversation are going to keep getting work.

There’s definitely right to be some fear that the Canadian broadcasters and networks are just going to load up on U.S programming. They haven’t exactly shown themselves to be local cultural supporters when it comes to financial backing. Though, I really believe, if one of the networks threw all of their money into CanCon they’d be the one to make the most money (you have to offer something different now). Who knows if it’ll happen. That’s really where we’re at now. We don’t know what will happen next year or the year after.

But that’s the world we live in today. Doing the same thing we’ve been doing for decades, with the Internet absolultely disrupting and changing media, is probably not going to give anyone employment support for very long either.


Tell Those Local Stories

We couldn’t agree more with the sentiment in this Metro Calgary article about telling Alberta stories (h/t to YegFilmer Geeta for the link).

While Alberta is chock full of good stories, great characters, and important debates, so is Edmonton. And your city. And your hometown. And every other place in Canada. (And Brazil, if our web stats are to be believed that we actually have real people from Brazil reading this.)

This is just a short post to say “Yeah, tell your own stories!” Things placed in Anytown, USA may help sell a TV show or movie in the short-term but it’s not likely going to be one that remains part of the pop culture conversation for years to come. A good example of this is Corner Gas. There is absolutely no ambiguity that it takes place in a small town in Saskatchewan.

A couple of other favourites, and openly Canadian shows, we like and can name off the top of our heads include This Is Wonderland (Toronto), Da Vinci’s Inquest (Vancouver), The King of Kensington (Toronto), Continuum (Vancouver, future-Vancouver), and Less Than Kind (Winnipeg – bonus for the “Confusion Corner” road sign in the opening credits).

What are some of your favourite Canadian TV shows, movies, and books that actually take place in Canada?

It’s not TV, it’s HBO

HBO logo

HBO’s slogan is going to take on a new level in the new year. The cable channel synonymous with ushering in a golden age of television programming is cutting the cord.

In 2015, HBO will allow non-cable subscribers to pay for and watch its programming in a new online streaming service (or through other online services and options). While there’s no Canadian mention as of yet, it will likely follow quickly as this will surely find success with people already watching most of their programming online and through services like Netflix and Hulu. (There are said to be ways to circumvent said international restrictions, but we wouldn’t know anything about that.)

This is great news for people who have cut their cable, or are considering it, as HBO is one of those channels that could really keep you hooked on monthly cable bills (or keep you downloading, as Game of Thrones is the biggest show on the torrents). It’s also big news as Canada’s television regulator and our TV networks try to figure out what comes next. If HBO is any indication, bet on the future going online, and stop trying to find ways to keep people buying cable packages they don’t really want anymore. And it’s the best news for people who are just looking to watch what they want when they want, and not always resort to downloading the best shows on TV.


The American Fall TV Season

Image via:

Image via:

With the recent Let’s Talk TV hearings, about the future of Canadian television and content (and Netflix and Internet and…), wrapping up in Ottawa, it’s a good time to look at what’s new in the Canadian fall TV season. It’s probably also a good reason because fall remains the big time for television programming.

This is only the original drama and comedy that’s been announced for primetime television hours, and doesn’t include the many local news or daytime lifestyle programs that may be on the schedule.

Schedule “highlights” after the jump. Ooh, I think those quotation marks were a spoiler. Continue reading

It’s like Netflix, but less good

No cable. Gets Netflix.

No cable. Gets Netflix.

Canadian broadcasters Shaw and Rogers have teamed up to launch their version of Netflix. It’s like Netflix, but with less stuff and some of the same stuff found in Netflix and online in other places. Also, the name is “shomi” which I am already going to nickname Sham-wow.

Bell is also supposed to launch some kind of online streaming service in the future. Also to compete with Netflix. It’s the perfect plan.

Continue reading

Welcome back, TV eh?

tveh logo

You know, we were going to write a blog post about TV, eh? last year. We were big fans of their podcast, which talked about Canadian television each week. But then they went and hung it up, riding off into the television sunset. As sad as it was to see them go, we understood pulling the plug on a blog to shift gears.

Good for everyone though (including me needing a blog topic) TV, eh? is rising like a glorious Phoenix. The ashes of TV Guide Canada would be involved in said rising.

Yes, TV, eh?’s return comes on the heels of TV Guide Canada shutting things down. Running online many years after the paper channel guide disappeared from coffee tables across the country, the television giant called it quits earlier this summer. One of the reasons TV, eh? founder Diane Wild felt good about leaving her site last Christmas was the TV Guide Canada could continue to highlight original Canadian programs and produce features and interviews on shows and the people making them here in Canada. But we know how tough traditional media is finding this whole Internet world. Continue reading