Canada OTT Content: Will “Hollywood North” Break Free?

“Hollywood North” is a term that’s been used to describe the film industry in Canada, mainly for the cities of Toronto and Vancouver. However, unlike other places compared to Hollywood, Canada is more than a domestic film & TV capital: Hollywood major players do cross the border to produce content. Through this article, we’ll explore the impact of such players on both the Canadian audiovisual industry and the OTT Content catalogues, before addressing the topic how can the Government regulate such impact. Did Streamers Damage Canada’s Content Industry? The Writers Guild of Canada revealed in mid-2023 that its members’ revenues have declined by 22% over the past 5 years. Among the reasons explaining this significant decrease, the arrival of streamers in the country dragged down national broadcasters’ advertising revenues as well as Pay TV subscriptions. For instance, Bell Canada’s total direct Pay TV revenues decreased by 7.4% between Q4 2017 and Q3 2023. The figure drops to 21% for Vidéotron. As a consequence, less budget is invested in the production of Canadian originals, so revenues of Canadian screenwriters decrease automatically. Conversely, Netflix Group, Amazon Group, and Walt Disney Group kept increasing their global content spending year after year. In the meantime, Canada remains a valuable shooting location for such giants of the industry. A city like Toronto allows Hollywood producers to film in locations that are similar to New York City - at a discounted cost. The series Suits was for instance shot in Ontario’s capital city. According to Alistair Hepburn, executive director of ACTRA (A Canadian Alliance representing performers in recorded media), in Toronto “55% to 60%” of the audiovisual production work is US-based. However, despite US producers’ requirements to use local Canadian workforce, the Writers Guild argued that the jobs created were for the most part related to filming crews, but not screenwriters or director positions. This happens in a context in which A.I. tools start worrying creative workers about the future of their jobs, but above all in a work environment that is evermore precarious for screenwriters. Indeed, we went from 20+ episode seasons (for instance Law & Order, scheduled for its 23rd season this year) to “short” series of 6 to 10 episodes commissioned by Netflix. The issue, which is the same on both sides of the border, hides multiple problems: fewer episodes written mean reduced revenues, and then less experience acquired - without the guarantee...

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