Canadian TV Producers Take on Hollywood With Streaming Dramas

Rookie Blue Canada 2011

“Rookie Blue” Ben Bass as Det. Sam Swarek, Missy Peregrym as Andy McNally

They cracked Tinseltown with U.S. network deals, and now too few subsidies for digital series has the Canucks looking to access Netflix and Amazon slates.

Canadians are headed to Hollywood again, only this time to get their digital-first dramas on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu slates.

After Canadian dramas like Flashpoint, The Listener and Rookie Blue nabbed co-production deals with the U.S. networks nearly a decade ago, a lack of subsidies back home for online dramas is once again driving indie producers south. "Budgets may be smaller, but digital-first content is not eligible for a lot of the legacy Canadian funding incentives," read a report from the Canadian Media Production Association, representing indie producers gathered at the Prime Time conference in Ottawa this week.

"As many of the government incentive programs have focused on digital extensions and/or highly interactive digital content, the pure linear digital-first category has been somewhat orphaned to date," the report added. Canadian-based mini-studio Lionsgate showed the way south when Orange Is the New Black landed on Netflix.

And Amazon Prime just gave a second season order to the kids series Annedroids from Sinking Ship Entertainment. Elsewhere, Canadian indie broadcaster Blue Ant Media picked up a minority stake in the YouTube multichannel network Omnia Media, before pacting with online animation site Mondo to fund 250 adult comedy animated shorts.

Catherine Tait, chairman of Toronto- and New York City-based digital producer iThentic, who wrote the report, titled Content Everywhere (2), told The Hollywood Reporter that upstart Canadian SVODs like CraveTV and Shomi are no cash machines like Amazon and Netflix. So Canadian producers are looking south and elsewhere overseas for production coin to make the next PewDiePie or Video Game High School.

"It's not like there's new money in the mix in the Canadian system," said Tait.

"Canadian producers, to the extent they can get their digital-first series made, will have to pitch against U.K. and American producers for those slots on those big platforms," she added as local producers look to Netflix, Amazon and Hulu for license fees.

Elsewhere, Canadian mobile and cable giant Rogers Communications followed up a minority stake in Michael Eisner's Vuguru digital media studio by striking a $100 million joint venture with Vice Media to launch a studio and a TV channel in Canada.