Netflix Announces Pact With Canadian Indigenous Filmmakers

Netflix June 11 at the 2019 Banff World Media Festival announced a partnership aimed at assisting indigenous filmmakers in Canada.

The SVOD pioneer is working with imagineNative, The Indigenous Screen Office (ISO) and Wapikoni Mobile on programs ranging from screenwriting to apprenticeships, joining 11 existing programs Netflix has funded to guide content creators from underrepresented communities.

“Indigenous communities in Canada are rich with unique stories,” Stéphane Cardin, director of public policy, Netflix Canada, said in a statement. “Netflix is proud to help launch these three programs, which will reach indigenous communities across the country.”

Rhymes for Young Ghoules

Canada was Netflix’s first foreign expansion in 2010 and now accounts for more than 7 million subscribers.

Over the next three-and-a-half years, imagineNative will undertake or expand activities aimed at indigenous screenwriters, directors and producers through its institute department.

“This funding is a significant investment in opportunities for indigenous directors, producers, and screenwriters in Canada, and marks one of the largest sponsorships in [our] history,” said Jason Ryle, executive director of imagineNative.

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The ISO-Netflix Production Mentorship and Apprenticeship Program will provide second phase support for projects that may have received assistance through programs offered by imagineNative, Hot Docs, Banff World Media Festival or Whistler Film Festival, among others.

The program will include two streams: Key Creative Apprenticeships and Cultural Mentorships for directors, producers, screenwriters and showrunners.

“ISO spent the last year in consultations with Indigenous creators and this fund responds to their expressed need for new funding opportunities that will advance work and career opportunities, as well as allow them to follow protocols and practices that are central to Indigenous ways of working,” said Jesse Wente, director of the Indigenous Screen Office.

With the Netflix partnership, Wapikoni will be able to coordinate emerging filmmakers, organize opportunities and structure a program of both continuing education and professional coaching.

Focuses include mediation, dialogue, awareness, education and building bridges between nations, peoples and generations.

“The support from Netflix will allow us to continue to foster narrative sovereignty and cinematographic excellence,” said Joannette, from the Pessamit First Nation of Quebec, and executive director at Wapikoni.

Netflix’s support of these programs comes from its fund to develop the next generation of Canadian creators and talent, focused on underrepresented communities in the screen industry.

Other partnerships include the Inside Out Film FestivalRIDM (Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal), and the Alliance des producteurs francophones du Canada (APFC).

Starz Bows Pay-TV, Streaming Service in Canada

As expected, Starz has officially launched service across the northern border in Canada. The Lionsgate-owned media company is now available via two Bell Media pay-TV linear channels as well as a $5.99 monthly add-on to Bell’s standalone over-the-top video platform Crave.ca.

The Canadian presence follows launch of Starz Play Arabia in 2015, which is currently available in 17 countries in the Middle East.

Starz presence in Canada aims to counter Netflix, which bowed service in the country in 2010 and now reportedly has more than six million subscribers.

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To do that, Starz is offering original programming, select library titles, and classic films from all eras, including new millennial comedy series, “Now Apocalypse,” from filmmaker Gregg Araki (Kaboom, winner of the first-ever Queer Palm Award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010).

Streaming March 10 before its television premiere on Starz that evening, the new, coming-of-age, half-hour comedy series was an official selection of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, and stars Canadian actor Avan Jogia, as well as Tyler Posey, Kelli Berglund, Beau Mirchoff, and Roxane Mesquida.

Other original content includes spy-thriller, “The Rook,” premiering this summer; past seasons of “Power, Party Down, and “TheGirlfriend Experience”; critical darlings “Vida” and “Sweetbitter”; in addition to hundreds of movies.

Catalog series include:

  • AMERICA TO ME, Season 1 (March 10)
  • BLACK SAILS, Season 1-4
  • BOSS, Season 1-2
  • COUNTERPART, Season 1-2
  • DAN VS., Season 1-3
  • DAVINCI’S DEMONS, Season 1-3
  • THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE, Season 1
  • GRAVITY
  • MAGIC CITY, Season 1-2 (April)
  • NOW APOCALPYSE (March 10)
  • PARTY DOWN, Season 1-2
  • POWER, Season 1-4 (Season 5 coming soon)
  • SURVIVOR’S REMORSE, Season 1-4
  • SWEETBITTER, Season 1 (new season 2019)
  • VIDA, Season 1 (new season 2019)
  • WARRIORS OF LIBERTY CITY (coming soon)
  • THE WHITE QUEEN
  • THE WHITE PRINCESS
  • WRONG MAN

Netflix Expands Canadian Production Presence

Netflix’s first international expansion occurred across the northern border into Canada in 2010. Nearly 10 years later the SVOD pioneer is creating a production hub in Toronto, choosing two studio spaces to expand its production presence in Canada.

At Cinespace Studios, Netflix will lease four sound stages, along with office space and support space totaling approximately 164,000 square feet.

At Pinewood Toronto Studios, Netflix will also lease four sound stages and adjacent office space comprising a total footprint of approximately 84,580 square feet.

Netflix claims the expansion will provide production jobs for up to 1,850 Canadians per year. Existing production facilities include a lease of British Columbia’s Martini Film Studios, as well as mobile production sites Netflix sets up across Canada on a production-by-production basis.

In 2017, Netflix committed to investing $500 million in content production in Canada through 2022 and is currently on track to exceed that investment.

“With this commitment to Cinespace and Pinewood Toronto, we are proud to continue our investment in Canada and Canadian films and series,” Ty Warren, VP, physical production for Netflix, said in a statement. “These new leases will enable us to expand our presence in Canada and provide a wealth of production jobs for skilled Canadian workers.”

The new sites will support upcoming Netflix series and films, including the horror anthology series “Guillermo del Toro Presents Ten After Midnight,” the feature film Let It Snow,among others.

Netflix has produced myriad series and films in Canada starting in 2012 with horror series “Hemlock Grove” (Toronto), and including the Emmy Award-winning “A Series of Unfortunate Events” (Vancouver), “Lost in Space” (Vancouver), “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” (Vancouver) and movies 1922 (Vancouver), The Package (multiple locations in British Columbia), Game Over Man (Vancouver), Christmas Inheritance (Northern Ontario), Death Note (Vancouver), How It Ends (Winnipeg), Hold the Dark (Calgary and Kananaskis Country), The Holiday Calendar (Northern Ontario), In The Tall Grass (multiple locations in Ontario, and Calgary), In the Shadow of the Moon(Toronto), Polar (Toronto), Always Be My Maybe (Vancouver), Good Sam (Montreal), I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House (Ottawa) and The Christmas Chronicles (Toronto). 

Current series filming in Canada include “V-Wars” (Northern Ontario) and “October Faction” (Toronto), along with an untitled film starring Sam Worthington, directed by Brad Anderson (Winnipeg), and an untitled film to be directed by Patrice Laliberté in Quebec.

In addition, Netflix has partnered with Canadian partners to co-produce series for global audiences, including “Anne with an E” (CBC), “Travelers” (Showcase), “Frontier” (Discovery Canada) and limited series “Alias Grace” (CBC).

“By putting the right conditions in place to attract jobs and opportunities to the province, our Government working for the People is sending a clear message that Ontario is open for business,” said Michael Tibollo, Ontario’s minister of tourism, culture and sport. “Today’s announcement demonstrates that Ontario is now one of the most attractive places in the world for investment. We are creating an environment for job creators and workers to thrive, including in Ontario’s industry-leading film production sector.”

“With Cinespace having hosted two Best Picture Oscar winners – Chicagoand The Shape of Water – and having catalyzed tens of thousands of jobs in the studio district and on Toronto’s waterfront, Netflix has made an auspicious choice for its new production hub and the Cinespace family welcomes them,” said CEO Steve Mirkopoulos.

Pinewood Toronto Studios boss Nanci MacLean echoed the sentiment, saying the facility has been the production home to award-winning productions such as “Star Trek: Discovery,” Molly’s Game, Room, Suicide Squad, and IT.

“With our 200,000 square foot expansion underway, Pinewood Toronto Studios is a hub of creativity and innovation, offering clients the ability to be efficient and flexible, as well as access to Toronto’s stellar production community,” MacLean said.

Starz Launching Pay-TV, Streaming Service in Canada

Starz and Bell Media announced the launch of a new Starz channel and streaming service in Canada, beginning March 1.

Lionsgate-owned Starz, which claims to be second most-watched pay television service in the United States, will rebrand Starz Encore as Starz across two linear channels and on-demand platforms via participating television providers.

The following week, Starz becomes available directly to all Canadians online as an add-on to over-the-top platform Crave for an additional $5.99/month. Starz streaming can be accessed via Crave.ca, the Crave app on iOS and Android, and Apple TV Generation 4, with additional platforms rolling out in the coming months.

“Bringing Starz to Canada is testimony to the continued commitment to offer our viewers exclusive, premium programming at an unparalleled value,” Tracey Pearce, president, distribution and pay, Bell Media, said in a statement.

Bell said Crave has reached 2.3 million subscribers since the launch of the all-new Crave last November. With the addition of Starz, Crave subs now have access to a programming lineup that includes HBO, Showtime,movies, Vice, kids programming and originals.

In addition to local favorites “Vida” and “Counterpart,” and drama “Sweetbitter,” Starz originals include surreal coming-of-age comedy series, “NowApocalypse (March 10); female-led, spy thriller, “The Rook” (2019), starring Emma Greenwell and Olivia Munn; and recently greenlit series “Hightown” and “P-Valley.”

Back seasons include “BlackSails,” the comedy “PartyDown,” critically-acclaimed limited series, “TheGirlfriend Experience,” and long-running series “Power”, which currently ranks as the second highest-rated premium scripted series this year in the U.S., among 18-49 and 25-54, with an average viewership of over 10 million.

“We are excited to see this opportunity come to fruition and look forward to introducing Canadian audiences to all of the premium content that Starz has to offer,” said Superna Kalle, EVP, international digital

Cinedigm Acquires Streaming Rights to Canadian Drama ‘Heartland’

Cinedigm Sept. 26 announced the acquisition of Canadian family-friendly drama “Heartland.” The 10-season series will make its Dove Channel debut in October. Rights to the show were acquired from international distributor Kew Media Distribution.

Dove Channel is one of Cinedigm’s nine over-the-top video channels. In addition to Dove, the company operates martial arts network Combat Go; factual network Docurama; fandom lifestyle network CONtv; eSports lifestyle network Wham; Asian music and pop culture network Hallypop; a Chinese entertainment channel; and the family-focused Dove Kids.

Based on Lauren Brooke’s book series of the same name, “Heartland” follows Amy Fleming and her estranged sister Lou, who are suddenly reunited when their mother’s sudden death forces Lou to leave behind her relationship and career in New York City for the rigors of Heartland Ranch. Together, with their grandfather, Jack Bartlett, and loyal ranch hand Ty Borden, Amy and Lou work to adapt to their new circumstances and rebuild their relationship while dealing with the trials and tribulations of life on the ranch.

The series stars Amber Marshall, Michelle Morgan, Graham Wardle, and Shaun Johnston, and features notable guest appearances by “Arrow” star Stephen Amell and Katharine Isabelle (“Hannibal”), as well as Beau Mirchoff (“Awkward”), Keegan Connor Tracy (“Once Upon A Time”), Benjamin Hollingsworth (“Code Black”), and Kari Matchett (“Covert Affairs”), among others. The series is the longest-running 60-minute scripted drama in Canadian television history.

“For more than a decade, ‘Heartland’ has stood as one of Canada’s most popular television series of all time — resonating with viewers for its powerful storylines and realistic characters,” Erick Opeka, EVP of digital networks at Cinedigm, said in a statement.

Dove Channel was launched in 2015 catering to family-friendly content, offering viewers safe programming options and full access to a library of values-based movies, children’s programs, documentaries, and series in the streaming marketplace. Content featured on the Dove Channel is approved by The Dove Foundation and its Faith & Family Dove Seals of Approval.

Amazon Music Expands Service in Canada

Amazon Sept. 26 announced the launch of Amazon Music Unlimited in Canada, featuring voice-activated controls by Alexa.

Amazon launched Prime Music in 2016, with Canadian service bowed in 2017. Amazon Music Unlimited affords users access to millions of more songs and artists on the Amazon Music app for iOS and Android, and on all Echo devices.

Amazon Music Unlimited is available to all customers, offering even more music and ways to ask for it through Alexa. Users have the ability to ask for music on any Alexa-enabled device, including through the Amazon Music app for iOS and Android, by mood, era, genre and title.

Users can also request a playlist based on activity, set music alarms to wake up to, build and add a song to a new playlist just by asking, or return to a song they were listening to earlier in the day. With hands-free listening in the Amazon Music app, users can simply ask Alexa to play music, anywhere they go.

Available in more than 40 countries, Amazon Music offers ad-free access to the newest music from artists such as Ariana Grande, Drake, Arkells, Shawn Mendes and Carrie Underwood, among others, with unlimited playback and skips.

In addition to a range of locally curated playlists and stations featuring international chart-topping artists, from “Brand New Music” to “All Hits,” Amazon Music Unlimited offers numerous playlists and stations featuring Canadian artists from all genres including Cœur de pirate, Celine Dion, The Weeknd, Blue Rodeo and Jessie Reyez. Subscribers can also find the best in top genres, from Tory Lanez on “Fresh Hip-Hop” to The Reklaws on “Fresh Country,” as well as explore a range of globally available playlists, including “Pop Culture,” which spotlights the latest pop music releases.

Amazon is offering new Prime subscribers a free 90-day trial for a variety of plan options, including the standard Prime member price of CDN$7.99/month or CDN$79/year, the individual plan for non-Prime members at CDN$9.99/month; the family plan, which allows up to six members of a household to share a subscription for CDN$14.99/month for Prime and non-Prime members, or CDN$149/year for Prime members; the single device plan, offering full access to Amazon Music Unlimited at CDN$3.99/month on one Echo device, including the recently announced Echo Dot, Echo Plus, Echo Show and more.

“We’ve seen such a positive customer response from the launch of Prime Music for Canada last year, and with today’s launch we’re excited to bring more customers even more choice and ways of discovering music with Alexa,” Sean McMullan, head of international expansion for Amazon Music, said in a statement.

Roku Bows Branded Channel in Canada

Roku July 23 announced the launch of The Roku Channel in Canada, an ad-supported platform streaming catalog movies and TV shows. The Roku Channel requires no subscriptions, fees or logins.

In Canada, Roku said the channel is expected to average about a third less advertising per programming hour than ad-supported linear TV.

“Our users are looking for great free content, and with the launch of The Roku Channel we are making it easy for them to find it,” Rob Holmes, VP of programming, said in a statement.

Every month The Roku Channel will feature a selection of classic movies, starting with Bad Boys, Julie & Julia and Grown Ups, alongside a curated selection of content from existing channel publishers on the Roku platform.

Publishers participating at launch include American Classics/Hatch Farm Studios, FilmRise and Total Content Digital; others are expected to be added over time.

In Canada, the Roku streaming platform offers a collection of more than 5,000 free and paid-for channels offering access to 150,000 movies and TV episodes. The Roku Channel will be rolled out over the coming weeks. Once available for their device, Roku users can add the channel from the Roku Channel Store and start streaming free movies and TV shows.

Roku reports second quarter fiscal results Aug. 8.

 

CBS All Access Launches in Canada

CBS All Access April 23 launched in Canada, marking CBS’ direct-to-consumer digital subscription first expansion into an international market.

CBS All Access is available at cbsallaccess.ca, on iOS and Android mobile and tablet devices, and on Apple TV and Chromecast. CBS All Access will be launching on other connected devices in Canada in the coming months.

“The launch of CBS All Access in Canada is a significant milestone for the service,” COO Marc DeBevoise said in a statement. “We’ve experienced incredible growth domestically and see a great opportunity to bring the service and CBS’ renowned programming directly to international audiences across a range of platforms and devices. We look forward to continuing to expand CBS All Access across additional platforms, with even more content, and bringing the service to other markets around the world.”

At launch, CBS All Access includes the following on-demand programming, including “NCIS,” “Bull,” “Seal Team,” “MacGyver,” and “Instinct,” with new episodes available seven days after their initial broadcast.

CBS All Access first launched in 2014 and has grown its subscribers rapidly since that time. On March 15, 2016, CBS Corp. stated that by 2020 it would have eight million subscribers combined for All Access and Showtime’s direct-to-consumer products. CBS recently announced that it is ahead of that pace with both services reaching a combined total of more than 5 million subscribers in the first quarter of 2018.

Starz Bows App on LG Televisions

Starz March 29 announced the launch of its Starz app on select LG Smart TVs, including the recently debuted 2018 LG OLED TVs and LG Super UHD TVs with AI ThinQ.

Starz subscribers, including pay-TV and standalone over-the-top, can now watch original series, including “Counterpart,” “Power,” “Outlander,” “American Gods,” as well as hundreds of movies and first-run films on LG Smart TVs via LG’s webOS Smart TV platform.

The app on LG Smart TVs is a single destination for all subscribers who want to stream Starz premium content. It features intuitive content discovery and navigation regardless how the consumer purchased a subscription to Starz.

Starz, which is owned by Lionsgate, earlier this year entered into a multifaceted agreement with Bell Media in Canada.

The deal marked the first international launch of Starz since the Lionsgate acquisition in December 2016 as well as the first time it would be available in Canada. Starz content will be available across all Bell Media platforms, including TMN Encore and streaming service CraveTV.