CBC/Radio-Canada’s post-hockey hat trick

"There is life after hockey ... we've clearly been able to live well without it."

Canadians, brace yourself: “There is life after hockey,” says Jean Mongeau, GM and chief revenue officer at CBC/Radio-Canada. “Hockey has not been on Radio-Canada for over a decade, and we’ve clearly been able to live well without it.”

Of course, the pubcaster still holds the sport in high regards, but Mongeau says since reducing its commitment to hockey in 2013, they’ve found a new calling: amateur sports.

Banking on the mammoth deal signed in 2014, which secured the Olympic broadcasts through to 2020, CBC/Radio-Canada has been in talks with advertisers across Canada to build out programs that meets their needs, Mongeau says.

Road to Rio

The Olympics plan, which will be unveiled in the next month, is based on three pillars. First, the CBC will focus its attention on the athletes themselves, following them as they develop on their Olympic journey. Second, content will look at the communities that help build these athletes up, highlighting the support required to actually make it to the Games. Finally, of course, the crescendo: the Olympics themselves (which include Brazil in 2016, South Korea in 2018, and Japan in 2020).

“Partners kept telling us they were looking to sustain their presence with the Olympics outside the actual games,” he says. “And we plan to deliver that.”

This initiative will, he hopes, provide more opportunities for advertisers to reach their audience, help connect brands with communities across Canada, as well as showcase the athletes to Canadians, building on the Olympics’ momentum.

Making Arts Accessible

Of course, sports isn’t CBC/Radio-Canada’s only game: Mongeau says it’s delving deeper into the arts space, continually moving away from the elitist stigma that’s traditionally been associated with the pubcaster.

Specifically, while the network will continue to support music and literature, he says they’ll also invest into the performing and visual arts. He points to the upcoming CBC Arts, a hub through which art-related content will be aggregated and which artists will be invited to contribute.

Almost 80% of the Canadian population say they’re interested in some form of art,” he says. “This will be a great opportunity for advertisers looking to expand their philanthropic work to connect with consumers. This is what they want.”

Coming Up This Fall

Also in the works is a slate of new programming to be launched this fall and winter, building on the success of last year’s hit shows, including Schitt’s Creek (which pulled in more than a million viewers to its premiere episode), The Book of Negroes (1.9 million Canadians watched the premiere) and X Company (average of 900,000 views per week).

This year’s CBC docket includes 10 new shows, from The Romeo Section, an hour-long serialized espionage drama about a professor who manages a roster of spies, to This Life, which follows the end-of-life of Natalie Lawson, as she and her family deal with her terminal cancer diagnosis. Over on the French side, Mongeau points to Les dieux de la danse as one to watch; the reality competition sees 16 Quebec pairs of celebrities face off in a dance competition.

All the shows are fully produced here in Canada, which Mongeau says is CBC/Radio-Canada’s biggest asset.

Rebranded Media Solutions Team

“So many advertisers are looking to get as close to the program as possible these days,” he says. “We control the content, therefore we control the relationships with the production companies and are able to respond to these advertising demands.”

He points to the 250-strong Media Solutions team as the key driver to this success. The organization merged its CBC & Radio-Canada Sales departments under a single umbrella last April, rebranding as Media Solutions, a nod to the fact that the team can help solve advertiser’s needs on a national and regional basis, in both French and English.

“We’re the only media company to offer true national conventional networks in both languages,” he says. “And when you add to that our five specialty channels, our radio music networks and our digital assets (mobile, video and desktop) – we feel that combination and the creativity of our team can provide incredible opportunities for our partners.”

TOP: Schitt's Creek.  BOTTOM-LEFT: Les dieux de la danse.  BOTTOM-RIGHT: This Life.

TOP: Schitt’s Creek. BOTTOM-LEFT: Les dieux de la danse. BOTTOM-RIGHT: This Life.