Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Great Canadian Migration

Two articles in The Globe and Mail caught my eye this week. They clearly point to the future and they have repercussions for Canadian animation.

A survey from Ipsos Reid shows that Canadian viewers are now spending more time on the internet than they are watching TV. The average now is 18 hours a week vs. 17 hours of TV watching. Time spent online has been growing annually, and there is no sign that it will stop.

The other important item was that the Canadian Radio and Television Commission, in charge of regulating TV, has dithered yet again. There's been a battle going on over whether broadcast networks would receive money from cable and satellite companies for their signals. Until now, the cable companies have retransmitted those signals for free. Rather than make a firm decision, the CRTC asked the Court of Appeals to decide whether the CRTC had jurisdiction. Should the court rule that it does, the CRTC says that broadcasters should receive compensation, but declined to say how much. The figure should be negotiated between broadcasters, cable companies and satellite providers.

No one knows how long it will take for the court to rule and if negotiations will produce any results. Everyone's assumption is that cable fees will increase to cover the compensation.

What we're left with is an audience that is walking away from television and a government bureaucracy that is ignoring that fact. The media landscape is changing rapidly and the government can't move faster than a crawl. Even if a decision is made quickly, any increase in cable rates for subscribers is only likely to drive people away from TV that much faster.

Canadian TV is in a death spiral. As the audience leaves, advertising revenues will go down. As revenues drop, so will TV budgets. Cheaper shows will drive more of the audience away, resulting in still lower revenues.

Those working in Canadian TV have never had it easy. Those animation studios depending on Canadian TV for their livelihood would be smart to start diversifying immediately. I'm betting that in five years, we won't recognize what Canadian TV has become and the CRTC will be powerless to stop the changes.

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