Behind CBC’s unconventional Crawford release

The unconventional family comedy's unique strategy aims to avoid clashing with the Winter Olympics.
Crawford pic  (1)

Crawford, one of CBC’s new programs billed as part of its winter season block, is putting the entirety of its seasonal run online starting today, well-ahead of its broadcast premier as part of a unique strategy to avoid a major TV event.

The unconventional family comedy drops on the pubcaster’s CBC Player Feb. 2 ahead of a weekly, linear rollout beginning in the summer. The reason for the novel approach, said Laura Michalchyshyn, co-founder of the show’s production company Rabbit Square, is to avoid a clash with the Winter Olympics.

“We had a long discussion [with CBC] about how to deal with the Olympics when you have a serialized 12-episode story arc,” Michalchyshyn told MiC‘s partner publication Playback Daily. The CBC came back with the strategy of an all-at-once digital release (which Michalchyshyn said aligns with the content-consumption habits of its younger-skewing audience) followed by a weekly rollout for linear viewers over the summer. It was an idea the producers jumped at.

At the start of the winter TV season, Sally Catto, programming GM at CBC, told MiC that the pubcaster was getting more flexible on how it measured the success of new shows when adapting to new viewing habits.

“We’re looking at shows’ successes in different ways,” Catto said. “If you’re not watching Kim’s Convenience on TV, but you’re watching online, I couldn’t be happier.” It’s part of a plan to find younger audiences with a plan that doesn’t rely on winning them over to its over-the-air broadcasts.

Catto said digital audiences sometimes add 30% to 40% viewership on top of CBC’s linear broadcast audiences, although that has historically applied to shows that debut simultaneously on linear and digital channels.

Crawford follows a failed recording artist who moves back in with his parents and turns his compassion for raccoons into a successful business. The Toronto-shot series stars Jill Hennessy (Crossing Jordan), Kyle Mac (21 Thunder), Daniel Davis Yang (Riverdale), Alisce Moran (Man Seeking Woman) and John Carroll Lynch (American Horror Story).

Crawford is created by Clattenburg and co-created by recording artist Mike O’Neill (Moving Day). Writers on the series are Clattenburg, O’Neill, Zoe Whittall (Baroness von Sketch Show), Kathleen Phillips-Locke (Sunnyside), Monica Heisey (Baroness Von Sketch Show) and Timm Hannebohm (Trailer Park Boys: Countdown to Liquor Day).