CBC audiences turn to digital

The pubcaster reached more Canadians online than ever before, according to its annual report, but it struggled to hit its TV audience share targets.

In addition to digging into its financials, CBC-Radio-Canada’s 2016/2017 annual report gave an update on its Strategy 2020 performance targets.

Launched in 2014, the strategic plan aimed to double the CBC’s digital reach to 18 million Canadians by 2020, deepen its connection with Canadians, among other goals.

The CBC is well on its way to meeting – and most likely surpassing – its digital goal. The pubcaster reached an average of 16.9 million unduplicated digital users a month in 2016/2017, surpassing its target of 16.5 million.

On the English language side, CBC’s digital offering reached an average of 14.8 million unique visitors, exceeding its target of 14.1 million. The CBC credits the strong performance on new digital content (and the success of programs like My 90 Year-Old-Roommate and The Amazing Gayl Pile) and a new online video player.

Its linear results were not as heartening. For its English services, the pubcaster missed its 6% primetime audience share target, reaching just 5.5% of the market on CBC Television, down from 5.8% in 2015/2016.

“CBC TV audience share ended the year below target due to weaker programming performance in the fall (especially in the early weeks when sports and news audiences were particularly high) and the December holiday period,” the report states. “There was an upward trend in share performance this winter, driven by success of new and returning series including Pure, Schitt’s Creek, Murdoch Mysteries and Anne.”

On the information programming side, CBC News Network, exceeded its 1.5% market all-day audience share target, reaching 1.6%. The  results were largely due to high-profile news events like the Fort McMurray wildfire and the U.S. presidential election.

The CBC did not provide subscription numbers for its specialty television channels for competitive reasons, the report states.

In terms of Canadian content requirements, from Sept. 1, 2016 to Aug. 31, 2016, Cancon made up 85% of CBC TV’s primetime schedule, down slightly from 2015′s 87% but above its 80% condition of licence. During the broadcast day, it aired 84% Cancon, down from 92% in the previous broadcast year.

Turning to its French-language services, Radio-Canada’s digital offering reached an average of 3.8 million unique visitors, more than its 3.4 million goal.

On the linear side, ICI Radio-Canada Tele surpassed its 19.5% primetime audience share target, reaching 20.9%. It also achieved 4.8% all-day audience share on ICI RDI, ICI ARTV and ICI Explora, slightly exceeding its 4.7% goal.

ICI Radio-Canada aired 94% Cancon in primetime and 84% during the broadcast day, both figures up over the past broadcast year.

In terms of its perception, the CBC still has some work to do. In the last fiscal year, the CBC wanted 57.6% of Canadians to say the CBC has a personal importance to them – in reality, only 54.5% of Canadians responded as such, down from 56.6% in 2015/16. Canadians’ opinions were collected via surveys of 1,000 Anglophones and 1,000 Francophones conducted in the fall and spring of each year. Additionally, only 53.2% of Canadians said the pubcaster’s “information programming has diverse opinions and is objective,” down from 56.2% in the previous year.

“We will continue to closely monitor the perception towards CBC/Radio-Canada’s information programming as repeated discussions and spread of fake news on social media could influence how Canadians perceive information programming in general,” the report states.

Looking ahead to 2017/2018, the broadcaster said it is committed to increasing its digital audience reach and engagement and commissioning “premium scripted entertainment” and “bold, thought-provoking” documentaries.

That said, the report said CBC’s ability to achieve its mandate to deliver programming that “informs, enlightens and entertains” is challenged by the digital shift and unregulated digital broadcasters. It also identified the outcome of the government’s Cancon consultations as a key risk facing the corporation. 

In its filing to the government in November 2016, the CBC proposed getting out out of the advertising space, and instead suggested it receive replacement funding of $318 million from the feds. It said the move would allow CBC to focus on its cultural mandate, while also bolstering the ad revenues of the private broadcasters, helping everyone to compete in this new landscape.

Another identified risk going forward is leadership changes. The CBC board of directors currently has three vacancies, and the terms of five members (including chair Remi Racine and president and CEO Hubert Lacroix) are set to expire this year.

“There is a risk that a high turnover of directors within a 12-month period or change in leadership at the senior executive team may negatively impact decision-making processes, continuity and stability.”

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