Things are changing fast at the CBC, but Abby Ho is ready for anything.
The interactive producer is on the frontlines of two of the pubcaster’s newest media initiatives – digital laugh hub Punchline and talent accelerator CBC ComedyCoup – as it seeks to reshape its business model to fit its new budget-crunched reality.
She joined the CBC last fall, charged with working in the new role on the digital side of comedy programs at the pubcaster like Mr. D and 22 Minutes before being tasked with helping to develop the new comedy properties.
Far from being intimidated by the scope of what needs to be achieved at the CBC, Ho admits she thrives on change, challenges and new ideas.
“I always want to experiment and try new things,” she says. “If it’s something that hasn’t been done before, I want to do it.”
Ho graduated from Queen’s University from the commerce program in 2009. She had no TV industry experience, but wanted to work in the industry on the production side, specifically with teen dramas.
So, rather than pound the pavement handing out resumes, she cold-called Toronto-based Epitome Pictures and was offered an entry level administrative job at the prodco. But she quickly worked her way up, becoming director of digital and social media and getting to work on the digital side of Degrassi: The Next Generation.
Until Ho started working on the show’s digital strategy, all of its online and social assets were managed by Bell Media. She brought them in-house, utilizing the in-house team’s intimate knowledge of the show to grow its online audience and increase interaction.
“Abby’s astute understanding of all things digital was an invaluable asset to our team,” says Stephen Stohn, president of Epitome Pictures and executive producer on Degrassi. “Her innovative management of all our shows’ social platforms made a noticeable impact — she significantly increased fan engagement and amplified Degrassi’s online presence.”
In addition to social media, Ho and her team also took on the creation of one new digital project each year. One of the resulting creations, the Degrassi Game for iPhone – which features in-app episode purchases for five specially created online episodes – took took home the 2013 Youth Media Alliance Awards of Excellence prize for Best Convergent App.
Her love of all things digital makes her stand apart, says says her (admittedly biased) fiancé Cole Bastedo, whom she met while both were working on Degrassi: “She is the perfect storm of passion and precision.”
Ho credits Bastedo with helping her learn more about the comedic side of the business, which she got the chance to develop even more with her move to CBC last fall.
Looking to broaden her skill set, Ho helped moved Punchline, which is being developed as CBC’s online comedy hub, out of its beta phase (which only featured CBC clips) and into its current guise as a more robust original content hub.
She also played a key role in launching the CBC ComedyCoup project, announced this summer in concert with CineCoup Media and Just for Laughs. The project is built on Cinecoup’s accelerator model, in which teams compete by building online fan bases to promote their ideas.
As for where she plans to take her career next? Ho says her main focus is making the industry more diverse, both in the people that work in it and the platforms being developed.
“I don’t think the internet is going to be the farm team for TV in five years,” she says. “I don’t think it will be the testing ground anymore, I think it will be its own entity — and being on the ground floor of that is really exciting.”
Photo credit: Raymond Sam