Content by Canadians
Risk 2: Supports for Canadian video content decline
Looking specifically at the economics of video content, declines in consumption of traditional television may impact the support systems used to create much of the content valued by Canadians. Most services are not currently in danger of disappearing, but as the interactive tool illustrates, lower subscription and advertising revenues in the traditional system mean that many of the existing legislative, policy and regulatory tools, such as expenditure and exhibition requirements, contributions to funds and tax incentives, become less effective in supporting policy objectives. These tools are not currently applied to international or global online services operating in Canada, which means that as Canadians turn to these online services, the burden of supporting video content production may fall more heavily on Canadian television services and producers that are less able to shoulder it.
“I think once you leave cable you never go back. There’s literally nothing cable could do to compete with the fact that once I have my show I can watch it with no ads, whenever I want, unlimited amount, no wait time. There’s nothing cable could do to bring me back.”
Focus group participant from Ottawa (EKOS)
The most direct concern is that, driven by the shift to online consumption, continued declines in traditional TV advertising and subscription revenues—the broadcaster revenues on which the bulk of current financing is based—will reduce the money available for production by Canadians. If creators and producers do not find alternative types of financing, less content will be made by Canadians and Canadians will see less of themselves, their culture and their values reflected. The impact of declines in support could be amplified by increasing production costs. If there are fewer opportunities in Canada, this could also accelerate the loss of Canadian creative talent to other nations, particularly the U.S.
In the French-language markets, there are additional risks. Although demand for traditional television services and content remains strong in these markets, the total number of consumers is small. Scale is essential to producing the content on which these services rely. The loss of even relatively small numbers of viewers may have a disproportionately large impact on the ability to produce content in French by French-speaking Canadians. Further, the international or global online services to which Francophones, particularly younger generations, may be drawn are predominantly English-language services, meaning the implications are both economic, social and cultural.
To the extent that international or global services do offer French content, very little is produced by Canadians. Even content that is dubbed in French will most likely be dubbed elsewhere than in Quebec, which may have significant negative impacts on Francophone viewers and that province’s dubbing industry.
Opportunity 2: Democratizing content production
New online services have provided the tools and opportunities for more Canadians to become creators than ever before. This has resulted in the development of a large pool of Canadians who have developed the creative and technical talent and skills necessary to inform and entertain audiences large and small, within local communities, across the country and around the globe.
Unlike content created for traditional television and radio services, user-uploaded content, for example, is created by Canadians with relatively little support by industry or governments, although some of this content is acquired by online services and other services sometimes pay the most popular creators a portion of advertising revenues. To fully realize the potential of this opportunity, it will be necessary to ensure that these Canadian creators maintain the rights to their own creations and are able to benefit from those rights.
Opportunity 3: More content buyers
New technologies and online services create opportunities for content production by Canadian creators and producers. There is an increasing number of online service providers, and each must invest in content to draw in viewers. Traditional services, particularly television services, must also continually invest in content to compete with each other and their new competitors. There are great opportunities for new and existing Canadian creators and producers to benefit from this demand.
In the past, traditional television broadcasters have acquired much of their content from U.S. creators and studios. With the costs of content production increasing and U.S. producers and other rights holders developing services or other partnerships to sell directly to consumer, purchasing rights to broadcast foreign content in Canada may become more costly and traditional broadcasters may need to place a greater emphasis on new domestic content.
Developing the content of the future will mean new partnerships, many of which are likely to involve international sources for production financing. This shift will, in turn, open doors to a greater number of markets for Canadian content creators and producers.
These opportunities are more than just economic. Demand for content and new technologies, coupled with partnerships with new players, can also lead to novel modes of storytelling and innovative forms of content, as well as different ways of conveying Canadian stories around the world. Creators bring their experiences from these partnerships back to their other work, enriching the creative process throughout the domestic market.
Risk 3: Canadian music may lose an important promotional tool
While the importance of radio to Canadian music production and its financing has declined, it remains a valuable tool for promoting and discovering artists and music, particularly new and emerging artists. Continued declines in radio listening may impact the future value of radio as a promotional tool.
“I remember when CRTC was not around, and there was no Canadian content rules. If you had a talent, you had to leave Canada, you had to. . There was no way if and but [sic]; if you wanted to succeed in entertainment you had to leave Canada. Then when they came in with Canadian content people started staying in Canada because they could get their music heard, get their feet on the ground here in Canada.”
Focus group participant from Sault Ste Marie (EKOS)
Artists have been forced to adapt their approach to promotion and discoverability by relying, for example, more heavily on touring and merchandizing. Future artists may face an even more complex challenge in trying to succeed and promote themselves through means such as social media or inclusion in algorithmic playlists offered by streaming services. Then again, online services offer the benefit of accessing valuable analytics, which help to create fan bases and identify new markets for live performance opportunities.
French-language artists may face even greater challenges. The unique and valuable contributions of these artists have been well supported by a robust French-language radio industry. Declines in listening in favour of international, predominantly English-language online platforms present significant risks for the future. On the other hand, Indigenous artists and artists who perform in languages other than English and French, some of whom may not have been as well supported by commercial radio, may find that the move to global platforms presents significant opportunities.