|Starlight’s Big 3 Paul Gross, David Cronenberg and Robert Lantos|
Looking for some crackling good reading on the future of Canadian television? You could do worse than to peruse the transcripts coming out of Gatineaux from the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission hearings into mandatory distribution.
I think the frustration is to think that somehow a particular point of view, when it didn’t turn out to resonate as well with customers as in with Canadians as they might have thought, that the result then is, well, somebody maybe pay me to do it because I couldn’t figure out how to do it myself.
As for Starlight, Williams and the CRTC panel wonder out loud if this idea to show all Canadian films all the time on one channel isn’t better served to consumers in today’s on-demand way. Commissioner Steve Simpson raised the point, stating that the CRTC has a preoccupation not just with adding Canadian content channels, but with making sire Canadian content is found. “It’s been my impression from talking to programmers that getting on the train is one thing. Finding the right seat is another.”
|Sun News also sent a negotiating team to the hearings|
In other words, is it on the right tier–or even the right platform?
Shaw SVP Operations Jay Mehr was quick to embrace that logic. “What we like about the discussion,” he said, “is instead of being anchored and forcing economic models on Canadians, it’s anchored in consumer experience.”
Unfortunately for Starlight, consumer experience does not tilt their way. Canadian films are a tough sell, even to Canadians. They argue it’s because the home audience can’t find these films, crowded out of cinemas by the flood of Hollywood fare. On Starlight they can find all the great Canadian stories, all in one place. The commission seems to be wondering out loud if this might not be just another channel consumers will skip past on their way to AMC or TSN–or other pre-existing movie channel services such as The Movie Network/Movie Central or, more affordable choices such as Hollywood Suite or Netflix.
Or Video on Demand services. As Simpson opined, “a Canadian VOD service is something that solves a lot of problems.”
Although, right now, the CRTC only demands a 5% for English and 8% for French Canadian feature film quote on existing on-demand services. Films like “Goon” or “Take This Waltz” get lost among all the Hollywood blockbuster releases.
So Williams, who knows a bit about the tough business of television, stepped up and asked, “is there an opportunity to build a unique VOD Canadian film service?”
That would make more sense than the current Starlight proposal, she suggested. Given the challenge of getting Canadians to actually watch Canadian films, isn’t there a “smarter, better, more forward-looking way to address the issue?”
…I think it’s a very old fashioned way to assume that the only way we’re going to get any attention is to put it all in one linear service and force that linear service into a home and think by some, you know, great act of God, therefore, people are going to turn it on and suddenly watch Monday nights to find the Quebec films and Wednesday night to find the whatever. I mean that frankly is, from my point of view, a very old fashioned approach to curating content and encouraging Canadians to find it.
Williams echoed the commission’s earlier musings that “this is not about not respecting the value and the quality of Canadian film.
It’s there and it’s substantial and we, as a country, need to think about if, in fact, we have an issue there and what the right way is to approach it. But I think to look backwards and say we’re just going to hammer it into an old fashioned linear service and, you know, collect it all in one spot and force it into someone’s home and that will solve the problem, I think really misses the point.
There are other issues with the Starlight application, many addressed here in this article by Jesse Brown in Maclean’s.