Playback’s Best of the Year: CSAs, Maslany, Netflix, City

Playback names its top picks for best major rebrand, best screen star, best media distributor and notable performance by a network.
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As Playback counts down to the end of the year, we’re rolling out our Best Of stories from our Winter 2012 issue.  Read on to see who Playback named the year’s top screen star, biggest media disruptor, best rebrand, and notable network. 

Best Major Rebrand: Canadian Screen Awards 

The new Canadian Screen Awards reflects more than a year’s worth of work by the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television. Unofficially dubbed “The Screenies,” the CSAs is a combo of the Genies and Geminis, and launched in March as a shiny new brand.
It netted Martin Short as host – who jazzed up the night by swinging from the rafters and complimenting Gordon Pinsent’s “awesome rack,” – and presenters such as Sandra Oh,  Alan Thicke and Jay Baruchel. Thanks to its new star power, the inaugural event netted an  average audience of 756,000 viewers, a number which is just a little bit higher than the number of categories in the awards.

Best Screen Star: Tatiana Maslany 

What more is there to say about the 28-year-old Canadian actress? After a breakout role in  Kate Melville’s Picture Day and being selected as a TIFF Rising Star last year, Maslany’s star has indeed risen. Starring as seven different characters in sci-fi drama Orphan Black, the actress netted a Critics’ Choice Television Award for her performance (and sparked a slew of angry tweets claiming she was snubbed for an Emmy nod).

The Saskatchewan-born actor then booked a two-episode arc as Tom’s (Aziz Ansari) love interest on NBC’s Parks and Recreation, and a second season of Orphan Black. The show’s tagline may be “She’s been duped,” but audiences definitely have not.

Best Media Distributor: Netflix 

Netflix has become one of the hottest production partners in the entertainment biz, after successfully transforming from a mail-order DVD service to a global streaming giant. In 2013, it launched original series including House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and Toronto-shot Hemlock Grove, even garnering an Emmy win for HOC. It recently unveiled a deal with Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel to produce four series and a miniseries, and said in its long-term view that it plans to spend $3 billion on content in 2014.

In its Q4 report this October, Netflix projected continued growth in Canada, where its subscriber base is reported to be around 2.5 million Canadians. While the CRTC ruled in 2012 that Netflix and other OTT services don’t pose a threat to the Canadian broadcasting system and therefore don’t have to play by the same CanCon rules, the service’s buzz-worthy growth indicates its contender status.

Notable Performance by a Network: City 

The headline news in conventional television today is no longer about what network beat what network on what night – it’s about maintaining viewership against hot new digital rivals. So the fact that City, from January to September year-over-year, posted more growth than decline is noteworthy, says MediaCom chief investment officer Michael Neale.

“They know they are the challenger brand and have delivered marginal growth in a declining TV category, namely conventional,” he tells Playback. In 2013, the network also continued its push for national status, expanding to Montreal in February with City Montreal.

The lynchpin holding its strategy together is comedy: building on young-skewing staples such as New Girl and The Mindy Project, the net topped the A18-49 and A25-54 demos for comedy with Mom and The Crazy Ones this fall and had five of the top 10 new comedies in the same demos. It also saw cross-border success with the first season of its Canadian comedy Seed picked up by The CW in the U.S.

Note: Tatiana Maslany was also nominated for a Golden Globe on Dec. 12 for best performance by an actress in a television drama.  

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