Friday, December 08, 2006

CBC < = > BBC One?

Quickly because I have to run out (like anyone cares), here's a comment from U.K.'s Piers Beckley over at Between The Pavement And The Stars where he makes best effort to compare BBC One to the CBC.

BBC One is the mainstream channel offered by the BBC. It's publicly funded and has to draw a fine balance between content that wouldn't get on a commercial channel, and popular content. So it seems to me that we can and should compare BBC One to CBC.

Anyway, let's do some math. BBC One budgets for popular mainstream drama come in at around the £630-700k/hour mark (source). As the BBC doesn't carry adverts (so an hour show is actually an hour of programming), that translates to £525k an hour at the top end. Plug that into an exchange calculater and you get somewhere between 1 to 1.2 million Canadian dollars per hour to put the same sort of money on-screen.

The top ten dramas in the UK on the week ending 5th November 2006 averaged 6.5 million viewers in a country of 61 million people (Source: Broadcast, 10 Nov 2006, and The CIA). Ignoring demographics for ease of calculation, that means a top ten drama across all UK channels has about one in ten of the population watching.

Now, we don't have the US Simulcast problem or two official languages to deal with, so I don't think we can compare the viewing figures directly, but one question does spring to mind: Is CBC spending the same sort of money as the BBC's mainstream publicly funded channel per hour of mainstream drama?
Thanks for that, Piers. I can try to answer your question shortly (I think the numbers are comparable) but if someone else wants to take a whack at it please do.

I'd still be interested in hearing about a similar network in the U.S. to the CBC, besides PBS.

Then Coffeecup offers up this tidbit:

Here is a direct link to a recent podcast by Paul Gross who talks about this exact thing for an hour - he's very forthright, and also offers some

And then Mef closes with:

I worry sometimes that every series produced in Canada has become a referendum on whether or not Canadian tv or the cbc should exist.Sometimes good shows don't catch on and you can't always point a finger and say, oh if there were more promotion, or if it were jazzier, or if the act outs were stronger, or the stakes were higher, or more heart, or more dynamic energy, or a talking horse lived next door...
I hear ya...really I do. This 'what is good Canadian TV' and 'how do we get more people to watch Canadian TV' and 'what should the CBC be' and 'why don't more people watch the CBC' debate has raged on for freakin' years, trust me. Just trying to be helpful and constructive.

Back shortly, please talk amongst yourselves.


Maurizio said...

The correct link for the National Arts Centre's Celebrity Speakers podcast with guest Paul Gross is:

wcdixon said...

Thanks Mortolan - corrected.

Piers said...

And the correct spelling of calculater is calculator.

I blame writing the post before I'd had any tea.

wcdixon said...

Caroline said...

Piers, on the high end CBC is putting in that kind of money, though I think mostly on international co-pros. Domestic commissions are much lower license fees and they are producing a lot in house ... their big success of this season's fresh crop is a Sony format being produced internally called Dragon's Den. The differences with CBC are that they only have the one channel (not counting Newsworld or the French ones). They do take advertising. And I think it is struggling to find its identity between airing stuff that is populist/advertiser friendly (hockey, the Olympics, Coronation Street) and stuff that is quality.

I think CBC definitely has a place. Just not sure what that place is. Certain things irritate me. Like CBC trying to outbid the private networks for rights to sporting events, beccause ultimately it is my tax money they are using and it could finance new original shows. Both Will and Denis have discussed the fact that here it is really a numbers game - because so few shows are getting made, the successes and failures are that much more obvious. And you're right, plenty of good shows from other places don't take off, either. I guess we're all just grasping for some kind of positive solutions so we don't have to move or reinvent ourselves into real jobs.

12:31 PM

Thanks for that Caroline.

Bill Cunningham said...

Something about what Diane said stuck with me through the night:

"it’s the state of the industry and the lack of response from the audience that’s frustrating me, and the constant blame game from inside the industry, with a shifting target depending on whether the point is the networks suck or the producers suck or the publicity machine sucks. I can’t keep track of who’s supposed to be the bad guys."

I hadn't thought of it this way before, but is the standard M.O. up there that these are all separate entities?

Because in reality (okay, my reality) networks (or distributors), producers, marketing and PR are all part of the same machine...

Mef said...


I like Intelligence. It's really good. I know when it's on. While it's fun to speculate on whether or not it's jazzy enough, the reasons why a show doesn't connect with mass audience aren't always in the realm of the knowable.

The stuff about the talking horse, and the dynamic heart and stakes? I was just trying to jazz up my comment. I didn't mean to be unconstructive.

Even though I don't agree that jazziness is a problem with this particular show, I'm glad you're writing about it and trying to figure it out. I'm glad for the Dianes and Carolines and the writerboys and everyone else who post and are trying to figure our industry out.

i think i'm going to go back to complacent lurking.


wcdixon said...

Thanks for stopping bt Mark - and I wasn't meaning anything by the 'constructive' comment. I was just trying to keep any of these threads from becoming a bitchfest (which you weren't doing).

Don't lurk! Play!

wcdixon said...


I think everyone is spent from yesterday. And I'm not sure how to answer your question, though I get your drift, without getting repetitive.

Yes they are all part of the same machine up here, sort of. The difference seems to be that down there, whether it be networks making and marketing television or Straight To DVD movie making and marketing, the goal is to 'sell it' - create a desire or demand for it - and if it 'sells' will be rewarded – either monetarily or with notoriety (awards, etc.) .

But up here you are up against a system that has resulted in:

1) programming not that good/jazzy/entertaining (however you wish to define it)

2) audience grows to dislike the programming - a stigma occurs.

3) selling it and promoting it is seen as throwing good money away, especially for the networks when they can make so much more with less risk or cost outlay by buying and airing US programs.

So the producers struggle to come up with concepts that fit the cultural mandates that accompany getting hands on the limited funding...programs eventually get produced and like every industry - some are good, or even hits (Corner Gas)...but a lot aren't.

It's still a numbers game - in the US network game and I'm sure you'd agree in the S2DVD game there's a lot more crap or bombs or duds than there are hits (quality isn't being included in the equation here - quality is subjective and something different to everyone). So when your output is not even a dozen series and movies over the course of a year (all networks combined), the percentages are going to say that maybe one might be a critical darling, and maybe one will be a hit. Maybe.

And when those kinds of percentages are put up against the profits being made by networks simulcasting US programming, you can see the tendency to ‘not try that hard.’

I’d be curious to know what kinds of dividends CTV and the companies involved have reaped off Corner Gas. I presume nobody is complaining, but if the cost outlay by the network has still resulted in a loss after all the success that series has had – well, it just proves the point of how difficult it is for us creators/producers to convince a network to get behind another series.

So yes, one should beget the other (as in making/marketing/promoting/ selling are or should be all part of the same machine), but it’s made all the more difficult up here because of the stigma and the fact that networks resist to make and promote because they are making more of money piggybacking on the US programs.

So is there a bad guy? Not really. It’s the system…in all its dysfunctional glory.

Diane Kristine said...
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Diane Kristine said...

Well, consider the source Bill – I’m not part of the industry so I have no clear idea of how they all fit together. In other words, I don’t know what I’m talking about.

The reason I put it that way is from knowing a little bit about how promotion works at CBC, where the network does the ad buy and on-air promos and outsource the media relations, which is minimal, and producers scramble to fill in the gaps and if they can, hire their own publicists. So to me it all seems ridiculously separate. And then we blame the mainstream media for not covering Canadian TV well, when there’s so little proactive media relations and it’s like pulling teeth to get information about a show in any timely way, and people involved with the shows don’t follow through on commitments, and when their readers haven’t demonstrated much eagerness to hear about Canadian shows – newspapers cover what they think will sell.

The frustration I was expressing is that in the media and on blogs I see finger pointing by industry people, and the definitions of failure and success changing, depending on who the target is at the moment. Intelligence is “failing” because of content and producers' inadequate DIY promotions, even though it’s doing better than most CBC shows right now, but other shows have failed only because of network promotion and scheduling? I call bullshit.

I see relatively few people who seem to be trying to consider the entire system and improve it, rather than assign blame in ways that completely exonerate themselves. And of course Denis and Will and Caroline and many of the other commenters here (including you Mark - don't lurk) are exceptions to that and the reason I’m usually more optimistic about the future than I sometimes appear.

And then I start to consider the “Canadian TV sucks” segment of the audience and kinda feel like I should apologize on behalf of all of us. It must be hard to stay constructive when faced with that.

Bill Cunningham said...

And when those kinds of percentages are put up against the profits being made by networks simulcasting US programming, you can see the tendency to ‘not try that hard.’

I've always seen promotion and marketing as "protecting my investment." To not do the promotion and the marketing and have that inform my productions is business suicide.

What you're describing to me flies in the face of EVERY business model I have ever seen.

"We're going to create a product that we don't know if there's a need for, but we'll do it anyway. We'll dump it on the market without telling anyone it's there. They have to find it... and to make it even more "fun" we'll move it around and make people hunt for it over and over...If we don't sell a million of 'em, then we're going to shut it down and do it over again, the very same way, until we get it right."

You know me - I create the campaign and the art before the actual program. I don't produce something I don't think will sell, and I don't abandon a program to "find an audience." I bring the audience to the program at the outset.

It's because I never have that much money to spend in the first place, so I have to "hedge my bets" and at least make sure that if I'm making a women in prison picture it's going to be the best damn "chicks behind bars" flick ever; the casewrap is going to look good to its audience; it's going to be available where the audience can find it (and if they can't I'll tell them where they can)and it's going to be resonably priced so that if they like this one, they may want to get others.

It's a pretty "safe" formula to that protects me if one of my programs fails.

Caroline said...

I will ruminate on what I would like the CBC and post again tomorrow when I am more awake (and sober).

And Mark, don't you dare go back to complacent lurking. Too many of us in the business are quiet and complacent. I think we are mostly of the same generation and it is up to us to try and fix the problems in the system or we will be the generation that killed Canadian tv, and that is so not happening on our watch.