March 20, 2023

A Warped, Broken Bridge to Nowhere: Canada’s Arid Media Landscape

If you can get renewed for making an OK show, why would you make a great one?

This one question exemplifies the Achilles Heel of Canadian Media.

Survey the streets of any prominent global city, and see what Canadian TV the people are aware of from the past 25 years. It’s likely “Schitt's Creek” will be the reply of many (if they have any answer at all), with the occasional utterance of “Trailer Park Boys” - if they happen to know it’s a product of Canada.

Or, just ask yourself: What Canadian TV can you not help but preach to your family and friends? 

Therein lies our issue: Our global media exports are laughably few. But why?

Act 1: Incentivizing Creativity

The current funding strategy of the Canadian government seems to be a mutation of the quantity over quality philosophy, or as it’s more formally known, Production Optimization. Granted, this approach creates additional jobs in the media industry, it is entirely counterproductive in creating globally recognized content. For that, it is vital that we adopt a Content Optimized Meritocracy; empowering creatives to take more risk, and incentivizing the achievement of international prominence for our content.

Act 2: New Measures

The Canadian Media largely judge viability based on a project’s budget, as opposed to their potential audience or financial return. This is comparable to being paid simply for stepping up to the plate, and whether you actually hit the ball makes no difference. Who would care to put in the extra effort if the rewards remain largely the same?

Compared to countries like Denmark, South Korea, and the UK, Canada remains primordial in its measurement of potential “hit shows”. The Brits have 2x our population but 20x our total export value; Denmark requires at least 50% national share in order for a show even to be considered for export; South Korea has displayed several times over, most recently with Squid Game, that it operates not only to serve national demand, but global supply.

Act 3: Digging Our Way Out

Solving this dilemma comes down to following the formula which has proven effective since the advent of storytelling: Good Stories, Well Told. Adopting this philosophy, in combination with setting explicit policy goals, incentivizing global content, and following the example of the nations listed above, will do well to dig our otherwise passable nation from its imminent place in the graveyard of creativity.

Simon Archibald
Executive Creative Director