Canada’s public broadcaster CBC has pulled back the curtain on its new strategic direction, combining a range of new content, entertainment consolidation and rebranding, and a new Fast channel with its news division.
At a Nov. 30 event at Toronto’s Massey Hall hosted by “Kim Convenience” and “Run the Burbs” star Andrew Fung, the publisher explained that all entertainment content, including streaming, linear and podcasts, will now live under the CBC Entertains umbrella. Combined, CBC Entertainment and CBC News are the company’s two-pronged approach designed to engage and amplify new voices in Canada – for all Canadians.
“Everyone knows CBC News, it’s where Canadians turn when there’s a big story,” said CBC Executive VP Barbara Williams. Difference. “We produce an incredible amount of entertaining content on TV, CBC Gem. [radio app] Listen, podcasts. And somehow that collection of entertainment content wasn’t really understood. So we have put them all under one heading.
Sally Cato, general manager of entertainment, reality and sport, added: “We’re reminding audiences that we’ve got drama, we’ve got comedies, we’ve got kids but we’ve got great podcasts, we’ve got great music. We have the Olympics. We have such content that explores art in its own way.
During the event, that new winter content was introduced across the board. From unscripted series such as “Push,” stars have appeared on stage or in reality, revolving around a group of friends called “The Wheelie Peeps” and “Bollywed” in Edmonton, about a bridal shop-owning family in Toronto’s Little India.
According to Williams, the main message was to convey that the CBC is an inclusive medium with a different view of what it means to be Canada’s public broadcaster. With that comes responsibility and opportunity, she added.
“We’re reaching out to new communities and different creators to find new ways to tell stories,” she says. “Television is an important part of what we offer. But on CBC Gem, we’re telling stories in different formats. We’re also talking voice-only fiction. With all our platforms, we need to make sure we reflect the Canada of today and be a place where anyone living in Canada can find something.
Williams notes that CBC’s rated streaming service, CBC Gem, saw 34 percent year-over-year growth in its subscriber base. That platform is one of the few places you can access CBC’s new instant service, CBC News Explore, which officially launched on November 30.
In conjunction with the launch, the broadcaster launched four new and in-depth news series: “About That” with Andrew Chang, “This Week in Canada,” “Planet Wonder” featuring meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe and “BIG: A CBC News Original Documentary.”
CBC News Explore is the second fastest channel to launch in Canada this week (Pluto TV launches Dec. 1) and the third overall ad-supported service in Canada, joining TUBI. CBC News Explore is also available through the CBC News App, CBCNews.ca and The Roku Channel, but Williams said there are plans to add more distributors soon.
“We made some thoughtful decisions right out of the gate; we have four new shows to start with, not 40. We didn’t want to make something too big to match ourselves with.” Williams said.
We know we have a lot of content to fill the channel and we will build it over time. We want to be free and we’re starting with Roku, but we’re committed to reaching all other connected platforms in the next few months.
Looking ahead, Williams said diversity is an everyday conversation and one that CBC has spent a lot of time discussing and implementing internally to create programs and content that align.
“It has to be intentional about it,” she says. “Do we have internal groups that reflect the communities we’re trying to communicate with? Do we have diversity, inclusive communities, ethnic and cultural, disabled, indigenous communities? If you can’t be like that [on the] It is very difficult to talk about accuracy from the inside out.
She says it’s CBC’s mission to reach creators who haven’t been told before and encourage those stories to be told through a variety of opportunities and programs that nurture talent.
Amplifying those voices is a challenge the public broadcasting institution is ready to tackle. Williams says internal research shows there’s an entire generation of Canadians out of touch with the CBC, and she wants to change that.
“A lot of what we were doing at this event today was creating an opportunity to help inform Canadians about what we’re doing. It’s a marketing exercise. It’s a branding exercise,” says Williams.
“It’s about making CBC stand for something, for people. Standing together for something, for that opportunity and responsibility to reflect the Canada of today. You should always tell people about it.