“Canada is an amazingly diverse country and growing our presence locally will help us share more authentically Canadian stories with the world, whether through the development of original content or through co-production and licensing opportunities,” Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said on the company’s media blog site on Wednesday.
Netflix entered the Canadian market in 2010, but for years had no Canadian corporate office or presence to avoid paying taxes and local content obligations. But in 2017, Netflix unveiled a deal with the federal government to set up a Canadian office and invest CAN$500 million (US$400 million) over five years in Canadian production, including original homegrown content.
Besides exceeding that production investment in Canada since then, Netflix has established permanent production hubs in Toronto and Vancouver, and struck co-production deals for homegrown TV dramas Anne with an E, Frontier, Travelers and Alias Grace and the French language survivalist movie Jusqu’au déclin for the Quebec market.
“We want to build on that momentum and make a new home for Netflix in Canada – opening an office and hiring a dedicated content executive to work directly with the Canadian creative community,” Sarandos said on the blog.
But as much as Netflix has sought for its investments in Canada to be guided by market opportunities, not local content obligations, that’s likely to change after the feds in Ottawa introduced Bill C-10, or legislation to regulate U.S. streamers like Netflix and Disney+ and force them to pay for the production of Canadian film, TV and music product.
Sarandos argued Netflix in its drive for its own film and TV originals has already spent over CAN$2.5 billion on productions in the country since 2017. Netflix’s Canadian expenditures includes local shoots for The Umbrella Academy, V-Wars, the horror series October Faction, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and Another Life.
“But more than that, we have built relationships with so many talented directors, screenwriters, actors, producers, animators and more. It’s still a thrill every time I hear a story about how a series or film we’ve developed has supported (or kicked off!) the career of local talent — like Mississauga’s very own Maitreyi Ramikrishnan in Never Have I Ever,” Sarandos said.
Mindy Kaling to fill the lead role for her coming-of-age comedy Never Have I Ever at Netflix cast Toronto newcomer Ramakrishnan as Devi, an overachieving high school sophomore who has a short fuse that gets her into difficult situations.
Until Canada’s Bill C-10 legislation passes into law, Netflix and other foreign digital platforms will remain unregulated in Canada, unlike local broadcasters and cable players that contribute a share of their revenues to subsidize local TV production. And U.S. streamers are increasingly making Canada their latest home away from home as they take advantage of local incentives, soundstages and production crews to produce their own originals.
So Netflix, by setting up a corporate office in Canada, likely in Toronto, is looking to deepen its commitment to the country in the eyes of federal politicians and regulators set to slap U.S. digital players with unspecified local content obligations. Netflix has, in recent years, commissioned editors to meet with Canadian indie producers at film and TV festivals and markets.
Hiring a content executive to deal directly with local producers also aims in part at supporting Canadian creators from underrepresented communities. “If we want more people to see their lives reflected on screen, then we need to make sure that people of all backgrounds are getting access to opportunities for training, mentorship and on-set experiences. Through over 20 local partnerships, we have helped support the career development of more than 600 Canadian creators to date,” Sarandos wrote.
The Canadian government estimates Bill C-10, if it becomes law, could result in online broadcasters being required to invest more than $800 million in local content creators by 2023.