New CMPA head Michael Hennessy discusses plans for indie producers

The ex-Telus lobbyist discusses the need for industry-wide change "away from the traditional structures, which we know won't last forever."

Michael Hennessy says becoming the new president and CEO of the Canadian Media Production Association is in part about getting closer to content creators he’s long known and worked with as a veteran industry lobbyist, and admired.

“The content side of things has always been my passion,” Hennessy tells Playback Daily ahead of going to bat for indie producers from June 18.

As a former head of the Canadian Cable Telecommunications Association, and as board members with the then Canadian Television Fund and now at the Banff World Media Festival, Hennessy developed long-standing relationships with indie producers.

“I’ve got to know over the years a core group of people, and I always thought the production sector is really kind of an incredible success story in Canada when you think of 128,000 employees and $5 billion in business,” Hennessy, most recently senior VP of regulatory and government affairs at Telus Corp., insists.

His task now is building on the ongoing transformation and stability at the CMPA, driven in large part by out-going CEO Norm Bolen securing a first-time terms of trade agreement with broadcasters, which has forged greater industry unity.

“I knew the CMPA was looking for someone that’s been involved in transformation, and who sees themselves as a change agent,” Hennessy says, recalling the recent CEO search.

But while Bolen set the table for Hennessy, the veteran lobbyist knows he must sustain and secure yet more momentum as Canadian indie producers look to stay ahead of the digital curve.

“I see the challenges for us in how do you grow the business, make it sustainable, make it audience-centric, while moving away from the traditional structures, which we know won’t last forever because of the power of the Internet and the amount of industry change,” he explains.

To meet those challenges and continue the transformation, Hennessy will be looking across the industry boardroom tables he knows well to forge alliances with different industry players.

“You can’t do it by simply promoting our interests as producers. You have to have a common vision of where you want to take the industry, writ large,” he says.

That means bringing broadcasters, distributors, actors, directors, people in gaming and software development on board to drive the industry forward into the digital age.

“All of us collectively will be at the heart of the digital system,” Hennessy says.

“And if we are ever to have a digital strategy for this country, it has to come from everyone working together,” he adds.