CRTC Renews Canadian TV Network Licenses With Restored Domestic Spending Requirements

Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS

Canuck TV regulator does u-turn on conventional TV spending requirements to get more investment in homegrown programming.

TORONTO – Canada’s TV watchdog is making room for more U.S. shows on the Canadian TV dial in primetime.

The CRTC on Wednesday renewed the TV licenses of English-language private TV networks with a bargain thrown into the mix: most private networks will now be compelled to funnel 30 percent of their gross annual revenues into the production of Canadian-made shows.

In return, the private networks have won the flexibility to shift their required spending on homegrown shows among their conventional, cable and pay TV services, subject to some limitations.

The result will be more homegrown programming diverted to niche channels to make way for more popular American scripted and reality shows like the Survivor and Law & Order franchises on main networks, or more re-runs of popular U.S. programming filling the schedules of domestic cable schedules to push up their audience and ad revenue.

The latest license renewals come as the CRTC attempts to balance the continuing domestic programming requirements of Canadian TV networks with the rising cost and challenges of their digital transition.

To do that, the CRTC reversed course and re-imposed Canadian spending requirements on conventional TV networks that was removed in 2000.

The new group-based license renewals also follow a spate of industry consolidation that saw major cable and phone giants acquire conventional networks and cable channels as part of convergence plays in an increasingly digital landscape.

The CRTC licensed Corus Entertainment and newly-rebranded players Bell Media and Shaw Media for five year terms until 2016, while Rogers Media received a new three-year term for its networks.

In the first year of their new license terms, the private networks are expected to spend around $774 million on Canadian programming.

That expenditure, however, will still be over-shadowed by the Canuck networks' continued spending and dependence on U.S. network series to drive their primetime schedules.