Canadian Int’l TV Festival grows audience, ups glitz

Founder David C. Heath on the CITF's year-over-year growth and what's coming for next year. (Corner Gas cast pictured on the CITF red carpet)
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Thanks to a new, extended “primetime” format and increased social media, November’s Canadian International Television Festival (CITF) saw significant growth over 2013, the festival’s founder David C. Heath reports.

Held over 11 days at the TIFF Bell Lightbox from Nov. 14 to Nov. 23, the CITF saw overall attendance throughout the festival rise from about 1,200 people in 2013 to 2,700 in 2014, according to preliminary attendance numbers from this year’s event.

Screenings and Q&As were scheduled for evenings and weekends as opposed to 2013′s three-day all-day format and a more robust PR strategy saw the festival earn its first coverage in the nationally distributed Globe and Mail as well as the Toronto Sun. While Heath said the different programming structure between last year and this year’s festival makes it hard to compare per-day attendance, the average attendance per individual event/screening was up this year.

Also new this year were marquee events like the North American premiere of CBC and BET’s The Book of Negroes – complete with a red carpet – in addition to “binge viewing” events and Q&As with behind-the-scenes personalities like Strange Empire showrunner Laurie Finstad Knizhnik.

Promotion this year was also bolstered by sponsor involvement, Heath says, with sponsors using their own media channels to support. As well, Eventbrite, which the festival used for the first time this year to distribute free tickets, also showcased CITF on its homepage.

While plans for next year are still in the works, Heath said the fest plans to feature some stunt events in 2015. The festival is also working on developing a documentary focused on the history of Canadian television that it hopes to bow in 2016.

Sponsors from this year’s edition of CITF included William F. White, the City of Toronto, the CNC, the Directors Guild of Canada, DGC Ontario, the Canada Media Fund, the CMPA, Eye on Canada, Bell Media, the OMDC, ACTRA Toronto, Telefilm Canada and the Writers Guild of Canada.