Bell Media Says No to Reopening Terms of Trade Pact With Canadian Producers

Kevin Crull Headshot - P 2013
Courtesy of Bell Media

Kevin Crull Headshot - P 2013

Top broadcaster Kevin Crull told an Ottawa conference the current industry pact remains "balanced and a win-win for the industry."

OTTAWA - Top Canadian broadcaster Kevin Crull has come out against reopening his industry's terms of trade agreement with indie TV producers.

“I do think the last strength is a terms of trade agreement that is balanced and a win-win for the industry,” the Bell Media president told a Prime Time conference panel in Ottawa on Friday while talking about the strengths and weakness of Canadian TV.

Crull’s support for the industry pact between indie producers and five private broadcasters followed a week-earlier call by Rogers Media president Keith Pelley to reopen the terms of trade agreement.

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“I feel it’s a little one-sided to the independent production community and, from the broadcasters’ perspective, I think it’s something we have to address in terms of the revenue share,” Pelley told a Banff Industry Day panel in Toronto.

Pelley argued broadcasters faced with declining ad revenue should receive a share of foreign sales revenue from Canadian shows sold into the world market to produce a more equitable industry model.

But Crull, appearing on the same Banff Industry Day panel last week, backpedaled on reopening a terms of trade agreement negotiated in 2010 when it comes up for renewal.

"I don’t think we would now turn around and say it’s broken," he said.

Crull further distanced himself from Pelley at Prime Time in Ottawa following indie producers hitting back at calls to reopen the terms of trade agreement on the grounds that it has brought a period of stability and compromise to Canadian broadcasting.

Broadcasters potentially sharing in the exploitation of international rights for Canadian series was only one hot-button issue emerging in Ottawa.

Malcolm Dunlop, executive vp television programming and operations at Rogers Media, insisted lower conventional TV revenue as Canadians migrated to alternatives like Netflix and Apple TV meant fewer dollars to back local producers.

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"It just makes it harder to get eyeballs. And if the eyeballs don’t come our way, it’s less revenue and less money going into production," he warned.

And that ad revenue pinch from audience fragmentation comes as Canadian dramas like Rookie Blue, Flashpoint and The Borgias increasingly make a mark on U.S. networks and other foreign platforms.

“The big thing is Canada is getting a reputation of being great producers, both in front and behind the camera. I just think it means the industry is getting stronger and stronger,” Dunlop said in a display of support for Canadian TV fare.