Internet streaming service Netflix will spend at least half a billion dollars over the next five years to fund original Canadian productions, CBC News has learned.
The funding will officially be announced tomorrow by Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly as part of a speech unveiling her vision for Canadian content and cultural industries in the digital world. It comes after months of public consultations, which were held last year.
The move could benefit both Netflix and the federal government, which has come under pressure to impose a tax on the service that could be used to fund Canadian programming.
Netflix has lobbied hard to avoid facing the kinds of requirements that traditional broadcasters in Canada have had to face for years.
Canadian broadcasters, for example, have to fulfil a quota of Canadian content they put on the air. They are also required to spend a percentage of their revenues to fund “programs of national interest” through contributions to the Canada Media Fund (CMF) — a requirement that was decreased to five per cent in a CRTC decision this past May.
Politically, the Trudeau government can now claim a victory for giving a leg up to Canadian producers without imposing a new tax on Canadians or going to battle with members of the industry to convince them to pitch in new money.
Yet, there are several outstanding questions for Canada’s cultural producers, who will undoubtedly be keen to hear the specifics of how this money will be spent.
It also raises questions about exactly how much new Canadian content this Netflix commitment will generate, beyond what the company would have produced anyway.
CBC Television and Netflix are currently working together on a second season of Anne, based on the Anne of Green Gables novels. The CBC also collaborated with Netflix to produce the six-part miniseries Alias Grace, based on the Margaret Atwood novel of the same name. It was brought to the screen by Canadian filmmakers Sarah Polley and Mary Harron.
Outside the Canada Media Fund
The money would not be contributed to the Canada Media Fund but would exist outside the fund. It’s not yet clear who will get to use it to create programming with Netflix.
The CMF gets money from the government of Canada and cable and satellite companies such as Bell Media, Cogeoco, Telus and Vidéotron. Producers looking for financing for their projects can apply to the fund for support.