May 10, 2012

Regan is a Media Director at Vector Media, with over a decade’s experience in media planning and strategy development working with B2B and B2C clients across North America.

We attended CBC’s Fall 2012 launch party on May 10, 2012 [disclosure: as guests of the network]. While there was some evidence of innovation, our take-away was heavy touting of existing content and programming, making one wonder how exactly was the CBC moving forward?

 

With a full house of media and agency executives from across the country, CBC announced its 2012/13 season in Toronto on May 10. Opening with Gerry Dee and CBC favourite Kathy Jones, the evening was heavy on celebrity and farce, lighter on future vision. Kirstine Stewart, Vice President of CBC English Television was the first of many senior executives to take the stage to downplay the media coverage of the “demise of the CBC”. Not surprising, no details were provided on the severity of cutbacks, layoffs or corporate restructuring – the message for the evening was one of moving forward, and highlighted the importance of the CBC to Canadian culture.

A multitude of CBC talent were showcased throughout the 90-minute presentation, with emphasis on the rich history of programming, including The Nature of Things, heading into its 52nd season, and Hockey Night in Canada celebrating its 60th.

The return of ratings giants Dragon’s Den and Arctic Air, the soap classic Coronation Street, the introduction of new shows like crime drama Cracked, the addition of the Murdoch Mysteries, and the shift of Strombo’s The Hour to prime-time, did little to reinforce Stewart’s statement “As it’s always been, news of CBC’s demise is greatly exaggerated. We won’t be retreating. We are moving forward.”  Really? There was little evidence of innovation in its television platform, only a heavy touting of mostly existing content.

Fall TV received the lion’s share of attention while scant reference was made to where the real innovations and future are for CBC – on the digital platforms. For example, while mentioned, the first ever entirely digital station in Hamilton was never fully explained.

And while talk of unique visitors, page views and site rankings just aren’t sexy at a sound and light show like this, a few more references and facts would have been welcomed by the analytics in the media planning and buying crowd.  The claim of CBC’s website as number one in Canada was not supported with legitimate numbers or context.  Tell us more about CBC’s great new Music app, beyond the thousands of downloads since launch.

It was reassuring to hear about CBC’s continued focus on integrating advertisers into content, including product placements, CBC celebrity endorsements, and cross-promotion, illustrating that innovation can go beyond the standard thirty second commercial  or online banner.

The crown jewel of ratings, CBC Radio One, held court with a number of its top ranking personalities including Sook-Yin Lee and Jian Ghomeshi, promoting the value of radio as tying the country together with local content and acting as a platform for Canadian artists.  Staying true to that uniquely Canadian measure of real success, approval south of the border, much was made of the CBC Radio One programs now syndicated across US stations. For a CBC platform with limited advertising opportunities (as of this post), it seemed as though this message was a reminder of the value of radio and that it should not be put on the chopping block, and/or a prequel to a more commercial future?

One highlight that received a round of applause from the audience was the elimination of the CBC Standards Council which previously reviewed all commercial material before going to air. For all other television broadcasters in the country the TV Bureau’s Telecaster provided this service – the CBC Standards Council was always an additional step in an often time-crunched process.

Overall, the presentation reinforced the message that the CBC is just that – Canada’s Broadcasting Corporation – with content created by Canadians, and enjoyed by Canadians coast to coast. Though the Fall program schedule appears to have been tweaked slightly, the real potential innovations for the CBC are its digital platforms including web properties, mobile apps, digital networks, and the possibility to purchase airtime within On Demand broadcasts in the near future.

We agree and really hope that the demise of the CBC has been greatly exaggerated. The CBC tried to tell us on Thursday night that they’re moving forward.  But perhaps a more important message to advertisers and agencies everywhere would have been the need to focus less on traditional television and more on the integration of a multitude of unique platforms with the ability to reach and touch Canadians.