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Canada's TV Industry Is In Trouble

Bad news for people working in Canadian entertainment: TV ad revenue is dropping, and broadcasters are cutting back on original programming.

Canada’s television broadcasters lost money in 2013 amid rapidly shrinking ad revenue, Canada’s telecom watchdog reported Tuesday.

The CRTC said in an annual report that private local broadcasters as a whole lost money last year, with losses before interest and taxes of $2.3 million. The industry had eked out a narrow profit of $22.9 million a year earlier. Ad revenue dropped 4.6 per cent, to $1.94 billion.

The CBC, which last month announced another round of job cuts, saw ad revenue plummet 11 per cent last year, to $311 million, the CRTC said.

Broadcasters are facing unprecedented challenges from new technologies and new media. Besides advertisers shifting revenue from TV to online, services such as Netflix are taking eyeballs away from programmed TV channels.

And now broadcasters find themselves in direct competition for content as well. Following the success of original Netflix programming, media and tech companies are jumping into the game, with AOL, Microsoft and Amazon among the brands now lining up to offer their own online TV shows.

But with ad revenue declining, traditional Canadian broadcasters are investing less in original programming. Private local TV stations reduced spending on original programming by 8.5 per cent last year, to $605 million, the CRTC reports.

The CBC also cut back on its programming spending, dishing out $724.6 million in 2013, down some 8 per cent from $786 million a year earlier, according to CRTC numbers.

Broadcasters's struggles stand in stark contrast to specialty cable TV, which according to a CRTC report last month, are seeing strong gains. Specialty channels, pay TV, pay-per-view and video-on-demand services have seen average revenue growth of about 7 per cent per year over the past five years, the CRTC said, with revenue surpassing $4 billion last year for the first time.

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'Orphan Black'

Best Canadian TV Of 2013

The Canadian Press reports:

Executives at some of Canada's biggest media companies say they're feeling the pinch as major advertisers take their money to social media operators like Facebook and Twitter, leaving the country's biggest television networks and newspapers with the scraps.

The shift is happening faster than many players expected and is a driving force behind changes across the industry as more Canadians migrate to the Internet for their news and entertainment.

Just a few years ago, the consensus among big media companies was that restrained spending by advertisers would evaporate after the economic downturn and give way to a new era of digital advertising where banner ads on their websites and streaming video commercials would become increasingly lucrative.

What happened was a little more complicated as social media companies swooped into the equation and outside forces like Google's advertising division attracted a bigger chunk of marketing dollars.

"Deals are being made on a global basis," said Jack Tomik, chief sales officer at Rogers Media, which owns a slate of television channels and magazines.

"Money is coming out of budgets for a lot of national advertisers before it even gets to this side of the border."

Deals with social media companies are typically massive in their reach and their costs. Photo app company Instagram secured a $100-million contract with Publicis Omnicom, the world's biggest advertising agency, that runs for a year. Now Instagram is shopping around month-long advertisement campaigns that cost nearly US$1 million apiece, according to a report in trade magazine Ad Age.

Last month, Keith Pelley, Tomlik's boss and president of Rogers Media, stood before the CRTC to emphasize what he characterized as a shocking foundational shift.

"The industry is not changing yearly, it is changing monthly, weekly, daily," Pelley said. "For example, the financial projections we filed in December no longer reflect the current reality."

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