CBC programming ‘reset’ heralds sizzle-free winter season
CBC programming ‘reset’ heralds sizzle-free winter season

The Singh Household in Bollywed.JOEL GALE /CBC

How greatest to explain the CBC’s programming “reset?” Effectively, to listen to it from the broadcaster itself, “It’s a Canada factor.” That homey mantra, repeated with enthusiasm in the course of the CBC’s splashy winter 2023 preview occasion held at Toronto’s Massey Corridor on Wednesday, underscored what govt vice-president of English-language companies Barbara Williams referred to as a “reintroduction” of the establishment’s leisure philosophy.

“It’s about representing the under-represented and giving everybody a voice,” Williams instructed the gang. “It’s for everybody, in all places. It’s a Canada factor.”

In a manner, these phrases felt honest, because the community-building vibe within the room stood in direct distinction to the CBC’s final in-person business occasion, the Upfront gross sales presentation in Might, 2019, through which CBC/Radio-Canada president Catherine Tait pledged a future constructed on the expansion of business income. But if its winter lineup is meant to herald a daring new CBC period, then “It’s a Canada factor” – a line cooked up with promoting company Juniper Park and offered to Wednesday’s viewers with a video that includes a handful of not-so-recognizable community celebrities – felt extra like, “It’s a well-recognized factor.”

Whereas the forthcoming miniseries Essex County (based mostly on Jeff Lemire’s graphic novel about small-town secrets and techniques) and Bones of Crows (Marie Clements’s residential faculties drama) showcased spectacular trailers, a lot of the occasion embraced earnest, middling sensibilities. Returning dramas SkyMed and Fairly Laborious Instances bought sizzle reels with little precise sizzle, whereas the comedy slate was derailed by a painful bit that includes Mark Critch and Andrew Phung that didn’t precisely whet appetites for brand new seasons of their respective sitcoms, Son of a Critch and Run the Burbs.

There was as a lot a give attention to scripted TV as actuality fare, or “factual” programming because the business calls it, together with shoulder-shrugging previews of Push (about an “unlikely group of pals and wheelchair customers”), Bollywed (mainly Say Sure to the Costume in Toronto’s Little India), and Canada’s Final Problem (The Wonderful Race meets American Ninja Warrior). Given the truth that scripted Canadian TV at personal broadcasters goes the best way of the penny, there was the nagging sense that actuality is affordable, drama and comedy want funding, and the CBC isn’t within the temper to spend correctly.

“I don’t know that we’re in search of a 50/50 break up on factual and narrative, however we’re in search of a stability,” Williams mentioned in a post-event interview. “We’re having fun with a little bit of a resurgence in factual curiosity with the youthful technology.”

It’s that viewers – “a complete technology of people that don’t know something concerning the CBC, which isn’t an excellent factor to say out loud,” Williams added – that the broadcaster desperately wants to maneuver the dial.

For its 2021-2022 broadcast season, the CBC’s prime-time share of Canadian audiences watching linear TV at any given second was 4.9 per cent excluding the Beijing Olympics – a determine down 9 per cent 12 months over 12 months for viewers aged 2 to 24, and down 7 per cent for the 25 to 54 demographic.

“Do rankings matter on tv? Having audiences matter,” Williams mentioned when pressed on the numbers, which had been solely supplied to The Globe and Mail after her interview, as a way to enable Williams a chance to “present context.”

“You can not discover a TV channel that’s not shrinking, but it surely’s not the nightmare that some individuals thought it was going to be,” Williams added. “I don’t wish to debate with you whether or not the share is nice or the share is unhealthy, that’s not the purpose. If we’re doing our job it isn’t due to rankings in prime time. It’s about extra Canadians connecting with CBC content material than ever earlier than.”

Meredith MacNeill and Adrienne C. Moore in Fairly Laborious Instances.Brendan Adam Zwelling/CBC

Requested whether or not the dip in prime-time share is being commensurately made up on its digital platforms, the CBC Viewers Analysis group responded that whereas there have been will increase in key metrics on streamer Gem 12 months over 12 months, there’s at present no harmonized measurement service permitting Canadian content material creators to grasp the connection between a conventional linear TV viewers and a streaming video viewers. Information firms Numeris and Comscore are set to introduce a “Video Viewers Measurement” instrument in Canada, however not till 2024.

Though linear TV audiences might not be the one metric that the CBC brass care about, it’s nonetheless a metric that they set for themselves – and it’s a one which they’re at present failing to satisfy. In its 2020-2021 annual report, the CBC set a prime-time share goal of 6.6 per cent for 2021-2022 however delivered 4.9 per cent (5.8 per cent together with the Olympics).

“We do our greatest to set real looking targets and we do our greatest to hit them however given the continuously evolving media panorama, there are various components, together with fragmentation, that finally affect the place we land,” Williams mentioned in a follow-up assertion.

One factor which may assist flip the tide: regaining the published rights to the NHL as soon as the Rogers deal expires after the 2025-2026 season.

“We’re clearly noodling that to see the place Rogers is at, to see what we expect it means to us and Canadians,” Williams mentioned. “The necessary factor past hockey is the Olympics, as a result of that’s what Canadians are actually connecting with.”

Olympics over hockey? I assume “It’s a Canada factor.”