Canadian Screen Industry Stakeholder Map

Welcome to the BSO’s Stakeholder Map

This map will briefly overview Canada’s landscape of the English language screen industries.
Note that change is frequent, so this map is accurate as of Summer 2024.

Where to Watch

Platforms
First let’s talk about platforms. This is going to get complicated – because it is.

Conventional or linear broadcasters:  There are private broadcaster groups such as Bell Media (which owns Crave), Corus (which owns Global), and Rogers (which owns CityTV) They are licensed as groups containing over-the-air services such as CTV or Global and specialty services such as SciFi and FoodTV.  They also own streaming services (i.e. Crave.ca, StackTV), which are currently licensed separately.

The other camp is the independent services such as The Weather Network, VisionTV and Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN). Some, such as APTN, have streaming services but most do not. 

Blue Ant is an anomaly in that it is not licensed as a group but owns multiple specialty services. 

Public broadcasters are the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) (including streaming service CBC Gem and specialty services Documentary and CBC News Network) and educational broadcasters TVOntario and BC’s Knowledge Network, which are owned by the province in question and with specific educational mandates. They are called public broadcasters because they are funded in large part by public money.

There are domestic streamers such as Crave, StackTV and CBC Gem and foreign streamers such as AppleTV, Disney+, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Paramount+. Note that not all American streamers are available in Canada so a show that is on Peacock TV in the US may be on another service in Canada, such as Crave or AppleTV. Note that streamers are diversifying and now also carry FAST channels and Pay Per View for recent feature films so no longer will one subscription fee provide access to all of their content.

FAST stands for Free Ad-Supported Television and is basically conventional television accessed through digital platforms. FAST has been around for a while (TUBI launched in Canada in 2015) but has grown substantially in popularity in recent years. Many streaming services and conventional broadcasters now have FAST channels. Some conventional broadcasters have partnered with foreign streamers who deliver their FAST channels (e.g. Corus and Amazon Prime).

Everything is digital, except for the over the air signals of conventional broadcasters still received by a small percentage of Canadians, but digital platforms are commonly thought of as social media platforms such as YouTube, TikTok, Instagram and Twitch and many independent digital on demand platforms such as HighballTV and Shudder.  The social media platforms host both user-generated video content and professionally produced video content while the independent digital on demand platforms are primarily professionally produced video content and act as an alternative to streamers. They are often themed or directed to a niche audience. For example, Shudder is a horror-themed service. Content on digital platforms can range from short one minute videos to feature film length or ongoing one hour series and everything in between. There are no minimum length requirements or limitations.

Video-On-Demand or VOD can refer to how streaming services, such as Netflix, deliver their content or it can refer to an on demand service provided by a BDU, for example, Rogers on Demand. Increasingly audiences are ignoring scheduled broadcast television and accessing content when they want it through on demand.  The BDU may also provide Pay Per View services that allow a subscriber to pay to see a special sports event or a feature film still in theatres.

The phrase non-theatrical can be confusing. It does not mean everything except theatrical but is used to mean exhibition to the public through a venue that is not a traditional theatre. This can include schools, retirement homes, libraries, museums and airlines. There are a few distributors in Canada, such as Criterion Pictures, who will manage non-theatrical distribution of film and television programs.

The market for feature films is rapidly evolving. Canadian features always had a hard time getting into theatres as American films dominate theatres. However, as fewer people go to theatres except to see big Hollywood blockbusters, Canadian features are even harder to get a run in theatres. Increasingly Canadian features are being released on domestic and foreign streamers and finding audiences there, though often after a minimum theatrical release to satisfy financing conditions. 

Distribution

Film

There are a small number of feature film distributors, such as Mongrel Media and Elevation Pictures. They represent both Canadian and international films, both domestically and in the international markets. 

Television

There are many more television distributors with most of the big production companies also owning a distribution arm to distribute their own content and often other producers’ content. For example, Blue Ant, Sphere Media, and Shaftesbury all have distribution companies.

The Industry Landscape

Federal Regulator (CRTC)

The Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is the independent quasi-judicial body established by the government to regulate broadcasting and telecommunications. It has a broad jurisdiction but for content creators the most important elements are the regulations that establish BDU contributions to Canadian programming, and conditions of license for broadcasters that set how much they have to spend on Canadian programming and any exhibition requirements such as hours of programming and schedule of programming. They also regulate accessibility to content and ensure that there is a diversity of content available to Canadians. With the passing of the Online Streaming Act, the CRTC is in the middle of a historic revision of the regulatory framework for broadcasting and Canadian programming. It is likely that the framework will look very different from what it is now, so stay tuned.

Content Creators

Producers are in charge of content creation. Producers are responsible for raising the financing, putting creative teams together, setting up production, and arranging for distribution. They can be the creators and act as writers and directors as well as producers, which happens a lot with digital content and low budget content. Or they can run large studios that produce and distribute many properties. Some producers are primarily creative producers who focus on the creative development and production of content while others are more business-focused and deal with financing and distribution. Most producers are small businesses with one to three employees, who then ramp up with freelance contractors when they are in production. These small producers will use outside consultants for services like business affairs, accounting, human resources, marketing and promotions, while the larger studios will have these people in house. Some large studios grow by buying smaller studios and continuing to operate them as distinct companies. For example, Atomic Cartoons operates as its own company, though it is owned by Thunderbird.

Service Providers

There are a range of service providers that provide essential services at different stages in the value chain. For example, talent agents represent screenwriters, directors and actors. Payroll companies manage payroll for productions. There are lawyers and accountants who specialize in entertainment clients. Publicity and marketing is often managed by specialists. There are insurance brokers who specialize in the needs of production.

Unions, Guilds and Professional Associations

Writers, directors, actors, producers, and crew tend to belong to unions, guilds and professional associations which are in charge of collective bargaining, maintaining standards and advocacy for their members. There are legal differences between unions, guilds and professional associations but the key similarity is that they are all organizations that work collectively for their members to negotiate minimum terms and conditions.  Some, but not all, are also involved in training for their members. There is non-union production but that is a smaller segment of the sector which often acts as an entry-way for emerging talent.

Training Organizations

In addition to colleges and universities, there are a growing number of training institutions that provide alternatives to post-secondary education but also professional training for those who have started working in the sector. For example, National Screen Institute (NSI) and Canadian Film Centre (CFC) both provide a range of intensive programs for screenwriters, directors and/or producers. BSO, ISO, Women in Film and Television (WIFT), Reelworld Institute, BIPOC TV and Film, and OYA Media Group are examples of organizations that provide emerging and mid-career talent from specific communities with opportunities to upgrade their skills through shorter training opportunities. 

Advocacy Organizations

There are now a number of advocacy organizations that represent segments of the sector. They can be based on region, for example Screen Nova Scotia, genre, for example Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC), or identity, such as the Black Screen Office (BSO), the Indigenous Screen Office (ISO), Disability Screen Office (DSO), and the Racial Equity Screen Office (RESO). There are now many equity-seeking organizations with different mandates. For example, BIPOC TV and Film and ReelWorld are focused on training for racialized members of the sector and Racial Equity Media Collective (REMC) undertakes research aimed at dismantling barriers for racialized creators.  None of the advocacy organizations engage in collective bargaining.

Funding Ecosystem

The funding ecosystem can be complex but falls into two groups: Public and PrivatePublic funding is funding provided by the federal or provincial government. Federal funding is managed by the Department of Canadian Heritage (Heritage Canada).

Federal Public Funding

Department of Canadian Heritage

Heritage Canada is the government department that primarily supports film and television production in Canada through funding to Telefilm Canada, Canada Media Fund (CMF), National Film Board (NFB) and Indigenous Screen Office (ISO), management of the Canadian Audio-Visual Certification Office (CAVCO).

Telefilm
Telefilm Canada
Primarily funds feature films though it also has programs to support festivals, marketing, distributors, research and it manages the treaty co-production certification process.
CMF
Canada Media Fund

Hybrid agency known as a public/private partnership. It is funded in part by Heritage Canada and in part by contributions from BDUs. Its biggest program supports television (drama, documentaries, variety and kids) by allocating funding envelopes to broadcasters.  It also has several selective programs that support interactive digital media and policy goals such as Indigenous production, regional production, official language minority production, third language production and racialized community production.

NFB
National Film Board

Both a studio for its own production of documentaries and animation but also a co-producer who will work with other producers of documentaries and animation.   

ISO
The Indigenous Screen Office

Indigenous screen-based storytellers and narrative sovereignty in Canada through funding and advocacy work.

CAVCO
Canadian Audio-Visual Certification Office (CAVCO)

Manages Canadian content certification.

CBC
CBC/Radio-Canada

Canada’s national public broadcaster which provides distinctive programming that informs, enlightens and entertains people in communities all across our country.

Indigenous Screen Office
Provincial Funding

Provincial funds are agencies created by provincial governments to support cultural industries, for example Ontario Creates, CreativeBC, SaskFilm, On Screen Manitoba. Each one has different mandates, different creative sectors that it supports and different programs. Some provinces have tax credits and/or grants but not all do. Many also provide location support services, export services and training.

Private Funding

Private funds are primarily Certified Independent Production Funds (CIPFs) which are certified by the CRTC to be eligible to receive BDU contributions (more on that in a minute). They exist to meet gaps in the existing funding and tend to target specific kinds of programming or audiences. For example:

  • Rocket Fund funds children’s programming
  • Rogers Documentary Fund funds documentaries
  • Telus Fund funds health programming
  • Canadian Independent Screen Fund for BPOC Creators


Newly certified funds that have not yet launched include:

  • Black Screen Office Fund
  • Indigenous Screen Office Fund


Canada Media Fund (CMF)
is a hybrid agency known as a public/private partnership (see above).

Broadcasting Distribution Undertakings (BDUs)

BDUs stands for Broadcasting Distribution Undertakings, the term the Broadcasting Act uses to refer to satellite and cable distributors. Under CRTC regulation, BDUs must pay a percentage of their revenues to the Canada Media Fund (CMF) to support the creation of Canadian programming that they benefit from and, if they want, a portion to the Canadian Independent Production Funds (CIPFs) of their choice. As audiences cut their cable subscriptions in favour of foreign streamers, these revenues have declined over the past several years.