CMF contributions spark production despite pandemic: annual report

CMF Brand Compilation
The 2020/21 report outlines the contributions made towards equity and inclusion initiatives and declines in viewership of CMF-funded Canadian programs except in Quebec.

The Canada Media Fund (CMF) contributed $347.3 million to Canadian television and digital media projects in 2020/21, stimulating production activity on par with the previous fiscal year despite the impact of the pandemic, according to its latest annual report.

Production activity rose to $1.5 billion in 2020/21 from $1.4 billion in 2019/20. Every $1 in CMF funding generated $4.29 in production activity, slightly higher than $4.12 reported in the previous fiscal year.

Overall, the $347.3 million went towards financing the development, production, marketing and export of 1,309 TV and digital projects, down from 1,501 in 2019/20. 

Additionally, the organization administered $100.4 million in COVID-19 Emergency Relief Funds which, according to CMF president and CEO Valerie Creighton, ensured “businesses in our industry were able to maintain operations, ensuring a quick return to production and stability when they needed it the most.”

The funds were distributed to over 1,200 companies, with $20.9 million given directly to over 500 equity- and sovereignty-seeking companies and organizations, including $8 million in COVID-19 relief funding to  companies owned by Black people and people of colour and $1 million to a BPOC sector development fund that supported 19 organizations owned and controlled by Black people and people of colour for projects.

“The pandemic exposed systemic racism and other forms of discrimination in our industry,” said Creighton in her message included in the report, which credited racialized industry leaders and organizations who contributed to consultations to change the system. “Their experience and expertise informed our decisions and actions, including developing an Equity and Inclusion Strategy for the next three years; hiring specialists from under-represented communities to lead outreach efforts; consulting with hundreds of Black, racialized and Indigenous storytellers; and laying the groundwork for a more equitable funding ecosystem.”

The CMF committed to address barriers to equity and inclusion, lack of representation, and accessibility issues in its programs through a two-year plan to dismantle systemic racism and barriers to access for equity-seeking and sovereignty-seeking communities.

The CMF instituted changes for its 2021/22 programs to support projects by production companies owned by Indigenous people, Black people or people of colour; rewarding broadcasters that license projects from production companies owned by racialized persons through its Performance Envelope Factor, and a $10.5 million pilot program for racialized communities.

Included in this year’s annual report is Numeris’ On-Demand Measurement (ODM) tracking, that tracks the consumption of video content through set-top box VOD services or broadcaster websites.

The report reveals that TV viewership reached an all-time low in the last five to 10 years. The data found, when looking at full-day viewing of Canadian programs in only the CMF-supported genres, an increase in morning news programs during the beginning of the pandemic may have resulted in the lowest share of CMF-funded programs during the start of the pandemic (as Numeris classifies news in a format equivalent to CMF’s documentary programming).

Audiences for CMF-funded programs were at 36% overall in 2020/21, down from 41% in 2019/20. The report highlighted that in peak viewing hours, CMF-funded programs showed a drop to 45% from 49%  in the previous year.

“Total tuning to all linear television, both Canadian and foreign, decreased by 1% in 2019/20, driven primarily by a substantial decrease in foreign linear viewing,” according to the report. Overall, there was a 15% decline in linear tuning to CMF-financing projects, for a net year-over-year decline of 14% in tuning to CMF-financed English-language content. This is an all-time low driven by declines in viewing of CMF-funded Documentary, Children’s & Youth, and Drama programming.

Children’s and Youth programming, viewing of non-CMF Canadian programs increased from to 15% in 2020/21 from 11% in 2019/20, viewing of CMF-funded programs rose by one point to 24%. In peak hours, viewing of CMF-funded programs rose to 30% from 22%.

For Drama programming, the full-day share of viewing of CMF-funded content declined by one share point to 5%, while shares of non-CMF-funded Canadian content rose to 13% from 11% in 2019/20. Shares of viewing in key hours of CMF-financed projects remained at 6%, maintaining a five-year low from the previous year. Viewing of non-CMF dramas during peak hours, however, rose by two points to 9%, its highest in five years. This may be partially attributed to catch-up viewing occurring during COVID-19 stay-at-home orders.

In the French-language market, Canadian programs continued to make up most of the viewing over foreign programs with a 64% share of full-day viewing, up from 59% from the previous year. In key hours, the number of viewing of Canadian programs in 2019/20 reached a 10-year high and rose to 65% from 60% in 2019/20.

For French-language content in CMF-supported genres, there was an increase of one share point from last year to 33%, another record high for full-day.