CMF-financed content hit five-year viewership low in 2015/16: report

While more CMF-backed English-language content was broadcast on Canadian TV than in previous years, fewer domestic viewers tuned in to watch it on linear channels.
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CMF-financed English-language fare hit a five-year low in terms of linear viewership in Canada, according to a report from the CMF.

The study for the fiscal year 2015/16 (the most recent year available) indicated that, despite an increase in the amount of CMF-backed content that was broadcast in Canada, fewer domestic viewers tuned in to watch it on linear channels. The total number of hours of CMF-funded content broadcast in Canada (across all channels) was 110,971 in 2015/16, up from 102,141 the previous year.

While overall TV viewership (for both Canadian and international content) fell by 2.6% from the previous year (2014/15), “there has also been a marked softening of audiences to CMF-financed content this year, especially in peak hour drama and documentary programming,” read the report. “Of note, total scheduled hours to all CMF content rose by almost 9% from the previous year yet total hours tuned still declined by over 10%.”

In the report, the funder attributed the dip to the general migration of audiences to digital platforms, as well as the fact that certain high-performing CMF-funded projects are available on OTT services (thus shifting the viewership away from linear). In addition, the viewing decline could be apportioned to an increase in the number of “non-CMF-eligible service productions,” said the report.

However, it should be noted that the audience share for Canadian programming overall (both CMF-funded and non-CMF-funded content) remained steady in 2015/16, accounting for 39% of full-day viewing in English-language television (the same as the previous year). As well, during peak-viewing hours, 37% of English-language television viewing was devoted to Canadian programming, up from 36% the previous year. The slight uptick was due to the increased audience share of non-CMF-funded content.

The study also measured the audience share of CMF-funded content versus both non-CMF-backed Canadian content and foreign programming, broken down into four categories: children and youth programming, documentary, drama and variety and performing arts shows.

In the drama category, CMF-funded content had an audience share of 8%, down from 9% last year, during peak hours. In terms of all-day viewing, the audience share for CMF-backed drama projects remained at 8%. The audience share for non-CMF-backed Cancon was 9%, while the remaining 83% was for international drama.

In documentary, in terms of both full-day and peak viewing ours, the audience share for CMF-financed content was 20%, down from 22% in 2014-15. The top 10 most-watched docs also clocked 22% fewer hours watched, at the same time as the number of doc episodes aired increased by 9%. The audience share for non-CMF-backed Cancon docs was 32%, while international doc content had a 48% audience share.

Elsewhere, in kids and youth shows, the full-day audience share for CMF-backed projects increased to 43% (a 10-year high), up from 36% in 2014-15. Non-CMF Canadian programs meanwhile decreased to 9%, from 12% the previous year. Overall however, the total viewing hours for kids content funded with CMF contributions has fallen by more than 25% since 2012-2013. The report pointed out that this decrease is due in part to the fact that the children’s content industry has been the most affected by the advent of digital platforms for streaming content, and that tablets and OTT services are favoured by younger viewers.

Meanwhile, in variety and performing arts shows, the audience share for CMF-backed projects fell to 25%, from 27% the previous year. Non-CMF-backed had an audience share of 4% and international content had 71%.

In a separate section of the report, the CMF assessed the usage data for projects produced through its Experimental and Convergent streams. The study found that English-language projects in the Convergent Stream clocked more than 22 million overall visits during the 2016/17 fiscal year. In particular, interactive media projects had 13 million visits, up from eight million the previous year. As well, visits to games rose by to 7.6 million, a three million increase from the previous year.

Earlier this week the CMF released its annual report which indicated the funder invested $361.6 million in Canadian TV and digital media projects in the 2016/17 year.

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