Netflix v. Cancon - Complications Ensue
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Thursday, June 23, 2011

As Netflix penetrates the Canadian market, it's going to put a lot of pressure on Canadian broadcasters and cable companies. They want the CRTC to loosen up Cancon restrictions. There have also been calls to require Netflix to license Cancon. Jesse Brown is snide about this in the Globe and Mail.

Netflix looks like it will eat its way into the broadcast and cable markets until there's nothing left -- unless it is a vast Ponzi scheme, which is entirely possible. But if it's for real, and if Netflix isn't required to hit a Cancon target, then that's probably the end of the Canadian TV and film industry.

Of course you can't force individual Canadian viewers to download Cancon. But you can require that Netflix achieve a certain amount of Cancon viewership. Any company that streams video to individual users has, by definition, the ability to tell exactly who's watching what, when. And, having set a target of X unique viewers watching Y numbers of hours of Cancon, if Netflix isn't hitting its target, it can license more Cancon and promote it more. California forces automakers to make a certain percentage of non-polluting vehicles like electric cars; it's the price of selling cars in California. If the price of streaming TV to Canadian consumers is promoting SLINGS AND ARROWS and ONE WEEK, I don't think we're asking too much.

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8 Comments:

I must be missing something, because this argument seems ludicrous to me.

Was Blockbuster video required to do rigorous accounting of how many users are renting Canadian content, and then adjust their marketing budget accordingly?

How would Netflix even be expected to budget for such a thing? What if the viewership targets simply can't be met by increased marketing efforts? Does that mean Netflix Canada goes bankrupt trying to meet Cancon regulations?

And why the Cassandra complex over Netflix? Nextflix streaming does not equal television. Has it even been proven to be the television killer? As far as I'm aware most current shows aren't available through Netflix streaming.

What's next, policing Cancon on our iPods?

By Blogger Trevor Mayes, at 7:33 PM  

I think it's more likely Canada will legislate how much they license, but not how much people view. The danger is that Netflix will simply license the cheapest possible crap to meet a quota.

@Trevor -- I've had access to American Netflix on vacation, and it's like crack. Waiting a week to see the next episode of a show is going to seem very old-fashioned soon -- people will want to download the entire series all at once, the way they watch box set DVDs.

By Blogger Lisa Hunter, at 10:36 PM  

Lisa, I agree, that licensing plan makes more sense.

And you're right, now that I'm down in L.A. I can't imagine life without Netflix. It's serious crack to a moviephile. However, there's always a huge delay on the television programs available. It's not like they broadcast concurrently with the show's original airing date. Usually there's at least a 6 to 12 month delay. So Netflix will never beat the immediacy of television.

If anything, Netflix will continue to eat into DVD sales. But in that case we're talking about shows that people had no intention of watching during their original run on television anyway. So again, Netflix and T.V. are apples and oranges, and any discussion of Cancon on Netflix needs to be cognizant of that distinction.

By Blogger Trevor Mayes, at 4:26 PM  

Jesse may be snide but that doesn't mean he isn't right.

If we can't create media that people want to watch then we don't deserve to be working in the field. It irks me no end to see people insisting that the only way anyone will watch what we make is if they are forced to at gun point. If Netflix is regulated to make people watch CanCon then all they will have to do is license short Canadian webisodes that cost $100 a minute to create and make viewing them a part of your service contract. We will end up being the annoying commercials that have to be viewed before the audience can get to the stuff they really want to watch.

And that is the best case scenario. The worst case is that the audience will be forced to sit through an entire movie or TV series that is created for the absolute least amount of money simply to meet CanCon rules.

Netflix can be the saviour of Canadian content. If the American media is available through Netflix without the parasitic and protected middleman role of our broadcasters, then they will have to start creating their own content just to survive. If their livelihood is on the line, they might actually start paying for and creating Canadian content that is good enough to garner an audience on merit alone.

As long as the Canadian broadcaster make almost all of their money off American media, they will see Canadian media as nothing more than an irritating line item expense required to get to their real business.

By Blogger Clint Johnson, at 9:10 PM  

Clint that's a wonderful theory. Now go and get simultaneous substitution changed.

Until that happens, all the talk about Canadian/American media is skewed out of all natural proportion, rendering the points you're making meaningless.

By Blogger DMc, at 2:09 AM  

Denis, things like simultaneous substitution are exactly what I would like this to subvert- even if only a little. If watching American content online with Netflix turns out to attract enough viewers away from the Canadian networks then the value of shows they don't own will diminish... hopefully to the point where the networks will have to start viewing Canadian content as a source of revenue not a loss leader.

All of these rules and regulations were sold as cultural subsidies but are in actuality corporate subsidies. If they weren't designed to mainline American shows into Canada and line the pockets of billionaires I can't see it?

How much better would you be treated if the network's bottom line depended on your show rather than the ten shows they just bought down in LA?

And is there any chance you would unblock me on Twitter if I promise not to challenge your tweets anymore- just shut up and follow? I like having a multitude of perspectives and I do value your voice... even if I don't agree with you all the time.

By Blogger Clint Johnson, at 3:32 AM  

Clint,
I do enjoy a good debate. Unfortunately, "a good debate" doesn't include espousing simplistic things that will throw 600 000 people out of work immediately so that things "might" be better down the road. That is not an adult solution. It's insanity.

Arguing it in cultural policy or, as is happening in the USA now, over the debt ceiling, is not helpful. "Burn it down" doesn't actually solve anything. In any industry. Introduce a bit of nuance into your views and maybe greater engagement will follow. That's how I get through the day.

By Blogger DMc, at 3:53 PM  

Denis,

If those 600,000 people are employed in an activity that is actually destructive to the purported goals then it might not be the best idea to fight tooth and nail to ensure that they remain employed - costs and results be damned. It isn't insane to stop doing something that is not working, in order to try something that might work. Arguing that we should now double down on failed actions and gamble that they will somehow work this time- that strikes me as irresponsible.

I wouldn't say that your views are simplistic since both our arguments are complex, deep and have been espoused by Nobel winning economists. Hell, they've written entire books building a case for either view. I may think you've view in this is incorrect, but I certainly don't think it is simplistic.

By Blogger Clint Johnson, at 6:50 PM  

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