CRTC seeks input from digital giants

The commission told Netflix, CBC, Google and others that it wants their subscriber and Cancon investment info, but promised not to share it.
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The CRTC has sent letters to a number of Canadian and U.S. companies, including digital giants like Netflix, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google, requesting their participation in the commission’s report on future programming distribution models.

In return for their participation, the CRTC has agreed that it will not disclose potentially sensitive data relating to audience size, revenues and viewing metrics.

“Given the type of information being requested and the distinct nature of this proceeding, the Commission is designating this information as confidential as it is sensitive financial or commercial information that is consistently treated in a confidential manner by the person who submitted it. Accordingly, the Commission will not disclose or require the disclosure of the information you submit and you will not be required to prepare or file an abridged version for the record. This decision of the Commission is final and conclusive,” read the letter.

The same letter was also sent to CBC, Quebecor, Rogers Media, DHX Television, APTN, Bell, Corus, Momentum Media Networks, Pelmorex, Stingray Digital Group, Spotify and a number of others.

Specifically, the commission is requesting information on companies’ subscription revenues, advertising revenues, number of subscribers, total viewing hours and the total amount invested in acquiring and commissioning Canadian content (including expenditures for productions acquired from Canadian producers, expenditures in Canada for content production). The commission asked recipients to send the requested information by March 2.

The CRTC is preparing a report on how Canadians will access content in the future, and how new models will support a market that is capable of supporting the creation, production and distribution of Canadian programming in both official languages. Canadian Heritage has given the CRTC until June 1 to file the report, and has asked for the input of Canadian companies, Canadian citizens and foreign-based companies operating in Canada as it prepares for its upcoming review of the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Acts.

This is not the first time the CRTC has asked for input from the major U.S. digital companies. In 2014, during the Let’s Talk TV proceedings, both Netflix and Google refused to provide business data requested by the CRTC, resulting in the commission erasing some of the information provided by the companies from the Let’s Talk record.

Government policy surrounding foreign-based OTT services such as Netflix and Amazon has long been a bone of contention in Canada’s creative industries. In September, Heritage Minister Melanie Joly released the long-awaited Creative Canada policy report, which stopped short of imposing a sales tax on Netflix but did secure a $500-million investment from the streamer over a five-year period – though the specifics of that investment have still not been clarified.

Last week at CMPA Prime Time in Ottawa, Heritage Minister Melanie Joly acknowledged the confusion around the Netflix investment, but said it is seen as part of a policy “transition plan” that includes digital players. She stressed that the reviews of both the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Acts will help bring about more significant change.

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