Blindsided or Boundless...
CBC lost the rights to hockey and with it half of its advertising revenue and at least a third of its audience. A pessimist would look at this as a ‘Survivor’ blindside –unjust and unexpected, while an optimist would believe that things happen for a reason and with any change comes opportunity.
I want to propose a new path for CBC from the lens of an optimist. I believe this plan will lead to job creation versus cuts, positive revenue versus taxpayer subsidies, and being an engine that powers the new economy, supports high-paying jobs and drives the network for decades to come. To do so, however, will require a massive transformation in how they do business. They will have to become capitalists.
My idea is drawn from an insight into their marketplace. Outside of sports and news programming, most of my 300-channel primetime schedule is saturated primarily with American content that has been purchased and international formats like Big Brother and Dragons Den that have been licensed and adapted. We import content and formats that make people outside of Canada rich versus creating and exporting it. There are exceptions – Being Erica, Orphan Black, Flashpoint and Recipe to riches but they are not the rule.
What if CBC’s mandate was to disrupt this unfavourable balance of intellectual and financial trade? What if CBC instead became an important platform for funding, staging and validating extraordinary channel-agnostic content that was conceived, developed and produced in Canada, but then marketed around the world at a great profit. To put the idea into context this is exactly how the British Television industry operates and they now account for almost 40% of global format sales. So here is the opportunistic twist to the plan. One that I know will be immediately dismissed, but I feel is worthy of strong consideration and my tax dollars.
The most important asset that CBC owns is its Prime Time schedule. Its value is based on its ability to draw the largest audience and therefore the most advertising dollars.
What if CBC put this asset up for sale by giving ten hours hour of their prime time schedule to Canadian Producers? With a guaranteed slot Producers could develop original concepts, source branded content partners, and even venture capital to fund their production. CBC would get better content for less investment, ownership in the international sales of the show, and have a revenue share on advertising similar to how Google structures YouTube deals.
Since the CBC and Producers both have skin in the game it would be in everyone’s interest to field the best content and to build the biggest audience. The content would be guaranteed a minimum run and the very best minds would be engaged to create interest through mobile and digital channels and influence marketing. In addition, every promo minute of CBC’s NHL simulcasts would go to making these shows a success.
To determine what content wins I would create a reality show where Canadian producers pitched their concepts to some of the best format minds in the business. A ‘Dragons Den’ where each week someone would win their Prime Time slot and a budget to develop it.
On the exporting front, I would use tap into the pool of tax credits to incent international markets to license the content or format for the first year in the hope that future seasons could be sold at full value.
In a nutshell, CBC becomes a petri dish to grow Canada’s new economy, one built on ideas, creativity and artistic talents, and new models for building an audience in a digital era.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson so eloquently said;
“Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
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