Today the CMF released its performance envelopes for each broadcaster for 2013-14. That means that we all now know how much each broadcaster’s production and development envelopes are at the CMF. As envelopes are based on a nightmarishly complex set of calculations based on ‘factor weights’ (more on that in a second), they can fluctuate, sometimes wildly, from year to year. If you are a creator or producer it is important to know the size, and possible change, of a broadcaster’s envelope before you start pitching them or trying to get a greenlight. And if their envelope went down this year, a look at their factor weight performance might help you find a way to pitch your show as a way to improve performance next year. More on that in a second too.
First let’s talk about the overall pool. As I mentioned earlier, BDU revenue growth is slowing and it has an impact on the CMF. They are projecting a decline in BDU contributions next year and have cut operating costs by 6% and the total Performance Envelope by 4.6%. So almost all of the broadcasters have been cut by at least a little bit. Some years there have been very significant swings due to a particularly successful audience year, regional production or above-threshold investment or the opposite but there aren’t any such major swings this year.
Envelopes are calculated using Factor Weights, which reward the broadcaster for meeting certain goals and given them a greater share of the money. It is a very complicated process as the calculations are also broken down by genre: drama, children’s, documentary and variety and performing arts. The factors are 1) Audience Success (Total Hours Tuned), 2) Audience Success (Original First Run), 3) Historic Performance, 4) Regional and 5) Digital Media Investment. The factor weights have differing impacts on each broadcaster depending on their programming priorities, history, language and makeup of their corporate group.
The results for production are here. CBC has a slightly smaller envelope at $58 million (-$4mill). Bell Media is slightly larger at $32.5 million (+$759K). Their huge uptick in production due to benefits spending (and the larger audience from all that original production) will likely have a greater impact next year. Shaw is down a little at $27 million (-$2mill). Corus is also down a little at $21.9 million (-$1.8mill). Rogers has the single largest increase to $9.7 million (+$3.8mill). While their level of production has stayed the same (replacing Murdoch Mysteries with Seed and Package Deal) the increase comes partly from the two new shows being regional. APTN loses the most at $4.05million (-$4.778), in large part due to a drop in regional production and digital investment.
It’s also worth noting that there are a few new entrants: Afroglobal Network, Ethnic Channels Group, New Tang Dynasty and The Weather Network. Changes last year to the guidelines means that they (along with a few other smaller specialty services) have minimum envelopes which are actually large enough to allow them to commission shows or partner with a larger broadcaster to commission shows (and grow their envelope).
So what do you do with this knowledge if you are a creator or producer? The first priority is always matching the project to the broadcaster who is looking for that kind of material. But you can add elements to your pitch if you think that your project could help your target broadcaster with their Factor Weights, particularly regional or digital media investment. If the broadcaster you’re pitching says that they have less money this year then check the list and confirm it. Almost everyone will be tightening their belt a little bit this year – except those with benefits to spend (i.e. Bell, Shaw and Rogers). If you are pitching a smaller broadcaster then think of ways that they might be able to partner with another broadcaster so that your project can help them grow their envelope. Showing an understanding of their challenges might help you get through their door.
[Thank you to Suzanne Keppler, Manager, Program Reporting at the CMF and fellow wonk, for assistance with some of this data. She is the Performance Envelope Queen.]