"Little Room Left" on Canadian Television Dial
By Sean Davidson for C21 Media
Canadian TV has room for only two or three new specialty channels from the US, and only those with must-watch original programming need apply, according to distributors and broadcasters north of the border.
Outside of news, sports and certain niche genres, the four-person panel convened in Toronto yesterday by organisers of the Banff World Media Festival agreed there was little room in Canada for channels that don’t offer original series and multi-platform rights.
“The need to have original, tent-pole series is really, really important,” said David Purdy, VP of television at Rogers Communications, pointing to last year’s launch of FX Canada and perennial hit-maker AMC, as examples.
AMC, he added, remains on the line-up of Rogers’ cable division because of Mad Men and others.
Specialty is “way, way, way more hit-driven” than it used to be, agreed Paul Robertson, president of Shaw Media and group VP of broadcasting for its parent Shaw Communications.
Canada has seen a number of US channels launch somewhat localised versions over the past year or two, including OWN Canada, HBO Canada and ABC Spark, which is a reworked version of ABC Family. A few other US channels air unchanged in Canada, including A&E and TLC.
Purdy later told C21 there was room in Canada for perhaps two or three more such specialties, likely to launch over the next two years.
The panel, which also included Rick Brace, president of special channels and TV production at Bell Media, also agreed more must be done to protect traditional broadcasters against Netflix and other over-the-top (OTT) services.
Canadian regulators recently restated their decision not to make OTTs subject to the same rules that govern traditional broadcasters, prompting grumbles from the panel about backward thinking, “micro-regulation” and the “exorbitant rates” paid for content by Netflix Canada.
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