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post #1 of 36 (permalink) Old 2012-02-14, 01:56 AM Thread Starter
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Question American vs. Canadian Television

Hello all,

As the title of the post hints, I am interested in your thoughts about American versus Canadian television programming. The reason I am interested in this is because I would like to write an editorial piece about the state of Canadian television. As an American in Canada, I feel that the quality of Canadian television is subpar when compared to the stuff offered up by American broadcasters. I get the feeling that many Canadians would support this claim as evidenced by the reception I get when I casually chat with people about this and by the ratings. For example, in the second to last week of January, the top 30 highest rated shows were almost entirely American. With the exception of hockey and the news, only 3! shows were Canadian (Dragons' Den-18th, Republic of Doyle-22nd , and Bomb Girls-28th). Similar unbalanced viewing ratios can be seen week after week and year after year. I have my theories/arguments as to why, but I am curious about your thoughts about what you think about Canadian television programming. Why do more Canadians watch American programming? Is there something “bad” about Canadian programming? If so, what? Etc… Feel free to expand on these questions or just share your opinion.
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post #2 of 36 (permalink) Old 2012-02-14, 03:00 AM
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3/30 is 10%

The same as the Canadian population/viewing audience and budgets are compared to the USA.

IAC, I have to question your numbers ... here are the top 29 programs in Canada the last week of January ... way more than 3 are Canadian!!

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post #3 of 36 (permalink) Old 2012-02-14, 03:55 AM Thread Starter
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The BBM info you linked to is for the last week of January, mine is for the second to last week of January. However, even the non-hockey/news programming is mostly American in that week as well. The purpose of bringing up the ratings was to show that Canadians favor American programming over Canadian programming (which in theory should be more relatable and thus have more viewers). What I am after is figuring out why this is this case. Why aren’t the few Canadian shows closer to the top of the heap when it comes to the most watched shows in Canada? This is what I am trying to unpack.

Here are a couple of reasons for why I think this is the case. One, the CBC for example, is only interested in producing shows that are acceptable for a family audience. That means no graphic shows like CSI on the CBC. Hence, Canadian viewers looking for a little edge to their shows have to seek out the American material. Two, Canadian production values, for the lack of a better word, are crap. I can flip through the channels on mute and tell you which shows are Canadian and which are American without hearing a word of dialogue. The Canadian ones look like they are stuck in the 80’s (it’s as if they put a strange filter on the camera lens to give it this effect). In the end, all I really want to do is make Canadian television better for the viewers. In fact, I wouldn’t mind seeing the trend reverse, where Americans actually start watching some Canadian shows because they’re so damn good! Now the questions are what do we need to change/fix to make this happen? Or, I might be completely wrong and Canadian programming is great, but for some reason or another more people prefer the American stuff. Your thoughts?
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post #4 of 36 (permalink) Old 2012-02-14, 10:12 AM
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If you're going to go by top x shows watched then of course you're going to introduce some major bias. The four major American nets have about 77 hours of American prime time non-news programming a week. The Canadian nets have? If you want to compare apples to apples, you'll need to speculate what would happen if the Canadian TV industry had the same budgets/number of shows as the American one. My guess is that the U.S. would still have the lead because of their cultural influence but it would be greatly reduced.
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post #5 of 36 (permalink) Old 2012-02-14, 10:19 AM
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Not to mention the fact our TV stations buy the majority of the programming from the US.

The budgets for the shows are bigger and the amounts invested in these shows to bring them to Canadian eyeballs means hyping up the shows. Our Canadian Networks like CTV and Global only offer their daily news as Canadian content...the rest is purchased from US broadcasters.

But yes..the content is king...and money rules.
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post #6 of 36 (permalink) Old 2012-02-14, 10:31 AM
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While I agree Canadian production of television is not as polished as the US, I think this is because o two things. First, with computers being used more and more, the costs for production houses are increasing. Add in a tax regime which doesn't allow for quick depreciation, who can keep up for the new advances. This hit home when I visited a friend who does production and saw racks of 'obsolete' equipment, yet still on the books for tax purposes.

The other, is something my father saw when he was the music biz. When artists would sign a contract, the first thing on their minds was getting an American deal. I would think television actors, production staff, etc, all try to get to the States, as the rewards are better. Regardless of our view of Hollywood, it is the largest producer of film, television and music in the world, and if you are striving to be the best, you will want to compete with the best.
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post #7 of 36 (permalink) Old 2012-02-14, 02:22 PM
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I think that a lot of the problems related to Canadian TV are regulatory. Requiring more than 10% Cancon spreads budgets too thin and creates low budget shows with poor production values. It also drives talent to US production companies that have higher salaries. Canadian productions simply get the audiences they deserve. The US and overseas markets are very lucrative and producing fewer, higher quality shows would create more foreign sales. Which is better, 5% of the Canadian and US markets or 50% of the Canadian market only? (They are close to being the same.) Add in other foreign sales and the argument tips away from Cancon requirements. All content requirement rules do is create work for a pool of underpaid, less talented Canadians who might be better employed elsewhere.

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post #8 of 36 (permalink) Old 2012-02-14, 02:23 PM
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"I can flip through the channels on mute and tell you which shows are Canadian and which are American without hearing a word of dialogue. The Canadian ones look like they are stuck in the 80’s (it’s as if they put a strange filter on the camera lens to give it this effect)."

Seriously, do they sell this lens filter in high-end camera stores? Maybe they do, and all the Canadian studios bought some in a bulk discount???
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post #9 of 36 (permalink) Old 2012-02-14, 04:09 PM Thread Starter
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Okay, these are some great responses so far. However, I am stilling wondering if you prefer to watch Canadian or American shows. Don’t think about budgets, just what the final product is as it is presented to the viewer. At 9 o’ clock tonight, are you more likely to be watching Arctic Air (Canadian) or NCIS: Los Angeles (American)? It doesn’t have to necessarily be these shows or time slot, just take your favorite Canadian produced show and put it up against your favorite American show and which one will you watch and why?
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post #10 of 36 (permalink) Old 2012-02-14, 04:14 PM
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I don't watch any Canadian shows, hockey included. I don't have very much time for TV, so I have to weed out the "less interesting" (as politically correct as I can get) Canadian shows. About 90% of my TV watching is devoted to watching TV series I have downloaded onto my iPad/iPhone or Netflix.
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post #11 of 36 (permalink) Old 2012-02-14, 05:01 PM
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I think, for me, one of the issues with "Canadian programming" is that it's TOO Canadian. It's like they go out of their way to subtly say that it's a Canadian show (either by the location, or the props, or the dialog). Meanwhile, an American show doesn't exactly FEEL American or Canadian or foreign, but rather, normal. Maybe it's because I live very close to the US, but for the most part I consider both countries to have similar tastes, so I don't like it when Canadian shows try to force our heritage on me.

It's like Canada is a cultural mosaic, while America is a melting pot. And I prefer the melting pot when it comes to watching TV.
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post #12 of 36 (permalink) Old 2012-02-14, 08:11 PM
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There's no doubt that American programming is more popular (and better, you could say) than Canadian programming. But, American programming is better than British, Australian, Irish etc. programming too.

I mostly watch American shows, but I do watch quite a few Canadian shows too. Rick Mercer Report and Flashpoint are great. I'm trying to get into Arctic Air as well.
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post #13 of 36 (permalink) Old 2012-02-15, 06:45 PM
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I don't think you can beat British drama though. It's produced the way it used to be done on this side of the pond, but no more. Just take a gander at Downton Abbey on PBS. Drama at it's best, I'd say!
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post #14 of 36 (permalink) Old 2012-02-15, 10:35 PM
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JoeTV that is a great question and this is a good discussion.

I've worked in the Canadian TV industry since 1999 and am an accountant by trade. Canadians watch American TV shows because they are better due to their bigger budgets. That's basically it.

In Canada, producers have an extremely hard job to fund a project/series. The network provides only about 20% of the budget. The producer has to go to other sources to fill the gap. We have the Canadian Media Fund/Telefilm, our very generous tax credit system, the cable funds (ie. Rogers, Shaw) and international pre-sales. It takes years to pull together this money. Most TV series I see are in development for at least three years. A lot of this has to do with pulling the $$ together. Canadian producers are forced to keep their budgets low in order to complete the funding.

In America, the network picks up 100% of the budget. The challenge there is getting the network to green light a project. But once that is done the producer can move to the creative element of the project.

The other constraint in Canada is our point system. For a project to be considered Canadian (hence, fullfilling a broadcasters CRTC requirements and allowing a project to trigger tax credits) key creative positions must be filled by Canadians. These can be Candians living outside of the country but they must be Canadian. These creative postions are for lead actor, 2nd lead, director, writer, DOP, editor and composer. Each category is weighted and the producer must end up with a certain number of "points".

I think that our government via the CRTC and our tax credit programs has created a good TV industry in Canada. It keeps a lot of people gainfully employed, one being me! But it has also created mediocrity. It has not evolved like our music industry has.

Last edited by techgrrl; 2012-02-16 at 08:57 AM.
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post #15 of 36 (permalink) Old 2012-02-16, 08:43 AM
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I agree with the above. When it comes to dramatic shows, I prefer American. However, for our family the TV that we do watch, most of it is the "reality" type shows such as cooking, home improvements, house hunting, etc. And of those shows, we would rather watch the stuff that is Canadian, as in shot in Canada. We have no interest in American home improvement or house hunting type shows. Food shows are a little more flexible but our favourites are Canadian.

I guess we can't relate to the American "content" of those shows.
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