Canada's CBC to Ignore Older Viewers for Younger Ones to Stay 'Relevant'

Unveiling its latest five-year plan, the cash-strapped public broadcaster said it will diversify away from conventional TV to target the digital and mobile spaces.

TORONTO – Canada's CBC on Thursday said it will increasingly ignore older TV viewers to target younger ones fleeing the public broadcaster for the Internet and mobile platforms.

To attract a younger, networked generation, the cash-strapped CBC will do fewer supper-hour newscasts and impose "significant" production cuts as it drives into the digital space.

"CBC/Radio Canada is transitioning from a business model founded on conventional broadcasting … to a digital future, where content can be created and distributed with a smartphone," the Canadian network said in a 19-page document issued Thursday.

Ceding the broadcast space to private sector rivals like Bell Media, Rogers Media and Shaw Media, the CBC said it will increasingly target TV audiences going forward, shift to digital platforms and cut jobs and infrastructure in the five years leading up to 2020.

"The challenge is to be relevant," the CBC said, conceding that it hasn't been in recent years as it loses marquee TV properties to rival networks, including Canadian NHL rights, only to be increasingly left with older viewers tied to their living room TV sets and couches.

The radical shift will also call for more edgy cable-type dramas and "cutting-edge" comedies, rather than feel-good, family TV fare that in recent years has hardly connected with younger Canadians.

"The public broadcaster will have to be rooted in the present, while stepping into the future to anticipate the migration of audience and revenue," the five-year plan said, in a challenge to unions and cultural nationalists who insist the CBC needs to maintain the status quo, with more government support, to stay relevant.

The aim is to see a more agile and flexible CBC, rather than one "tied to expensive, fixed means of production."

The public broadcaster said it expected to have between 1,000 and 1,500 fewer employees by 2020.