According to documents released under the Access to Information Act, it appears that Netflix spends more on Canadian English-language scripted programming than the Canadian private broadcasters, reports Ottawa Law Professor, Michael Geist. The revelation came in a June 2017 internal memo to the Canadian Heritage Deputy Minister.
While pointing out that one of the reasons why Netflix is outspending Bell is that the latter also spends on news and other programming not covered by the former, the partly redacted Canadian Heritage memo appears to concede that Netflix spends more than Bell Media on English scripted programming in Canada.
Back in 2013, Netflix’s total foreign investment in Canadian productions was $2.2 billion, a number that has now doubled and is standing at roughly $4.7 billion. Canadian content production also hit an all-time high last year at $3.3 billion, rising by 16.1%.
Notably, the increased expenditures do not come from broadcasters, whose relevance continues to diminish year-by-year. In fact, the private broadcasters (led by Bell) now contribute only 11% of the total financing for English-language television production.
The increasing irrelevance of private broadcasters for financing Canadian television production is particularly pronounced in the fiction genre (ie. scripted programming) with private broadcasters only contributing $59 million or five percent of the total. By comparison, foreign financing was $285 million.
Meanwhile, Canadian Heritage Minister Melanie Joly continues to support the idea that the emergence of unregulated streaming services such like Netflix will mean less money to support to Canadian productions, despite her own department acknowledging that Netflix spends more on English programming than Canadian broadcasters.
In March of this year, Bell and Rogers urged the CRTC to force foreign streaming services like Netflix to be taxed, to fund the creation of Canadian content.
When the CRTC released a report on the future of programming in Canada in late May, it suggested internet service providers and streaming services should be taxed, to fund Canadian TV production. The report was slammed by critics as supporting telecom providers instead of embracing streaming services.
With this government memo revealing Netflix spends more on English programming than Canadian private broadcasters, it makes it harder for telecoms to argue foreign streaming services should be taxed, when companies like Netflix apparently already investing so much in Canadian programming.