Corus, Bell & CBC urge reform to stop US streamers ‘sucking dollars to Hollywood’

Schitt’s Creek

Canadian broadcasters including Bell Media, Corus Entertainment and CBC have urged upcoming regulatory reforms to stop US firms from “sucking dollars to Hollywood” without supporting the country’s own cultural development. 

The C-11 Bill is set to update a raft of regulations across the Canadian media industry, including introducing a requirement for streamers to contribute to the country’s production industry, a move that could raise up to C$1bn ($750m).

Troy Reeb, EVP of broadcast networks at Corus, told delegates at BANFF World Media Festival, that “the economic underpinnings of the sector have been kicked away entirely” over the past decade as US-based have streamers entered the market.

While commercial companies had previously helped to subsidise the “cultural requirements we need as a country”, Reeb continued, the entry of streamers such as Netflix had left a void in support.

“The foreign companies have – and let’s remember that Netflix is the biggest network in this country – sucked dollars to Hollywood without putting money back in to support our cultural development. The greatest thing needed for C-11 is to put that back into balance.”

Rights & details

Bell Media’s Justin Stockman, VP of content development & programming, agreed but added that an “extra angle” was the availability of US shows to Canadian networks, with studio-backed streamers increasingly taking content for their own services.

“US programming is feeding the production of linear programming – some of the money we are spending is coming from people watching American series. So yes, streamers have to fund and support, but they also have to make shows available to us, otherwise they are actually going to drain money out of the system. People want to watch US shows as well as local – if they shut off that tap, we’re going to have real problems.”

Barbara Williams, EVP of CBC, added that there also needed to be greater acknowledgment of Canadian content appearing on streamers, highlighting shows such as her network’s comedy Schitt’s Creek.

Jamie Schouela, president of global channels & media at Canada’s Blue Ant Media, said the detail of the bill remained “fuzzy” but pointed to the importance of ensuring “meaningful IP rests with creators”, rather than being “taken out by streamers and then around the world”.

Schouela added that “tools and incentives” needed to be put in place to encourage streamers “to work with us – they used to need us, now they can go direct. For the health of our ecosystem, we need tools and incentives.”

Monika Ille, CEO at Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), also urged lawmakers to ensure the legislation “supports APTN… supports our viewership and supports Indigenous languages,” while Rogers president Colette Watson said her company was “hoping to present ideas” to regulators with regards to new rights models.

She also questioned where the $1bn figure had come from, while CBC’s Williams questioned “who would control the money and what rules will there be around how it is used for supporting the industry.”

Reeb added that regulation needed “to be equitable” to support “a domestic sector that is increasingly challenged. We’re all holding our breath to see how it unfolds.”

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