PBS Masterpiece Launches on Amazon Prime Video Channels for Canada

PBS Distribution Sept. 15 launched its streaming channel PBS Masterpiece on Amazon Prime Video Channels for Canada.

“We have seen tremendous consumer demand and subscription growth since we launched PBS Masterpiece on Amazon Prime Video Channels in the United States in May of 2017,” Andrea Downing, co-president of PBS Distribution, said in a statement. “This expansion allows our committed and loyal Masterpiece fan base in Canada to enjoy these high-quality, award winning programs whenever they like.”

The channel launches with popular Masterpiece programs such as “Sanditon,” “Endeavour,” “Home Fires,” “Inspector Lewis,” “Poldark” and “Victoria.”

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In addition to Masterpiece programming, the channel will also offer titles from the Walter Presents library of series from countries all over the world, subtitled in English, marking the debut of Walter Presents programs to Canadian audiences. Titles include the highest-rated drama in Denmark, “Seaside Hotel,” and crime thriller/mysteries “Professor T,” “Though Shall Not Kill” and “Before we Die,” among many others.

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“I am genuinely thrilled to be launching Walter Presents in Canada, with its rich, bi-lingual culture and its history of active engagement with the world as well as its long-standing appreciation of world drama,” said Walter Iuzzolino, co-founder and curator of Walter Presents, in a statement. “I know Canadian audiences will embrace our collection of quality, award-winning series with a sense of curiosity and with real gusto.”

The subscription rate for PBS Masterpiece in Canada will be CDN $6.99 per month plus applicable taxes with an Amazon Prime membership.

Futuresource: Amazon’s Canadian Launch of Digital Movie Sales/Rentals Expected to Jumpstart Video Market

With the coronavirus pandemic projected to shrink Canadian consumer spending on video entertainment by 6% in 2020, the sector is expected to increase by 11% since 2019, thanks in part to Amazon Prime Video launching first-time digital sales/rentals of movies in April, according to new data from Futuresource Consulting.

Amazon’s transactional VOD launch is expected to help turn around a flatlining home entertainment sector and drive the market to a new level over the coming years, leveraging the ability to monetize consumers who are already engaged on the Prime Video platform for SVOD and can now find movies to rent or buy without having to leave the user interface.

Other factors jumpstarting Canadian consumer video spending includes a resurgence in box office, driven by a strong slate of releases enhanced by this year’s postponements and ongoing SVOD growth.

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“Despite the challenges faced by the fallout from COVID-19, there have been some high points in the market,” market analyst Tristan Veale said in a statement. “SVOD has led the charge, with our forecasts showing a 39% increase in revenue in 2020.”

While social distancing and lockdown measures have resulted in consumers immersing themselves in streaming video services, including Disney+, this has not carried enough momentum to supersede the deficit created by the shuttered box office and large declines in physical media. Other factors include pay-TV cord cutting, dropping of sports TV packages, due to cancellations of sporting events.

SVOD will continue to drive growth in the Canadian video market, growing from CA$1.4 billion last year, to achieve in excess of CA$3.3 billion in 2024. The launch of Disney+ has been highly successful, bolstering the industry with nearly two million subscribers signing up before the end of 2019.

Amazon’s Prime service, in terms of household penetration, is also performing well, accelerating faster in Canada than it did in the U.S. or the U.K. The proportion of subscribers who are watching Prime’s video content is currently low, although Futuresource does expect this to rise.

As is the case in many territories, Netflix continues to dominate. It remains the market leader with 6.6 million subscribers at the end of last year, showing strong growth despite maturity. However, now at 45% household penetration and with a high proportion of password sharing, Futuresource expects future growth to become more difficult.

Bell Media’s Crave celebrated its fifth year in 2019 with strong growth helped along by HBO content and the final season of “Game of Thrones.” Crave’s peak of 2.7 million subs came during summer 2019, before falling back slightly by year end. Apple TV+ joined the market in November and has generated one million subs by the end of 2019. However, many are free annual subscription due to qualifying device purchases, retention once the free trial expires will be key.

“Despite the short-term industry challenges, next year’s recovery is expected to generate the largest consumer expenditure on video entertainment ever recorded,” Veale said. “What’s more, the growth will continue to be sustained, with an average expansion of 4% each year from 2020 to 2024, achieving nearly CA$13 billion in 2024.”

Canada’s Largest Theater Chain Staying Open Despite Coronavirus Spread

Cineplex, Canada’s largest exhibitor with 165 theaters employing 10,000 people, March 12 issued a statement in support of combating the growing coronavirus pandemic with a strategy of operating as usual.

CEO Ellis Jacob, citing the Public Health Agency of Canada, said the threat to public safety from the virus remains low, and as a result the chain will remain open for business — while mandating specific changes for staff and attendees.

Through March 10, Canada had one death linked to the virus and 70 citizens diagnosed with the disease.

Specifically, Cineplex said it has incorporated “enhanced cleaning protocols” in all locations, with particular focus on high-traffic and high-contact areas. Coronaviruses are easily eliminated by routine surface cleaning and the cleaning products Cineplex uses are industrial-grade and food-service approved.

The chain has also implemented increased communications and PSAs for consumers, partners and employees on importance of health and safety in the workplace. It advises anyone not feeling well to refrain from visiting the movie theater.

“Know that we are doing our part by putting employment policies in place so that our hourly staff are protected and are not penalized financially if they need to stay home,” Jacob said. “Again, we continue to monitor this situation closely and will provide ongoing updates as needed. We also encourage our guests to stay up-to-date through Canada’s Public Health website.”

 

beIN Sports Xtra Launches on Xumo and Roku Platforms Across Canada

beIN Sports March 9 announced that its ad-supported English-language live sports streaming channel is joining Comcast-owned AVOD platform Xumo and The Roku Channel in Canada.

beIN Sports will offer analysis from Canadian native and five-time Saskatchewan Soccer Association Player of the Year Kaylyn Kyle. The former Canadian Women’s National Team player and Olympic medalist was recently on the ground in Madrid, Spain, covering LaLiga’s El Claśico match between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.

beIN Sports is also streaming live coverage of ongoing LaLiga, Ligue 1, Copa Libertadores, Copa Sudamericana, and Turkish SüperLig soccer.

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“It’s easier than ever to catch [soccer] action in real-time,” Antonio Briceño, deputy managing director for beIN Sports in North America, said in a statement.

Launched in 2012, beIN Sports also features wrestling, mixed martial arts (MMA), skiing and handball, among others.

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IMDb TV Gets Top-Rated Canadian Animated Series

Amazon-owned ad-supported streaming service IMDb TV Oct. 3 announced it has licensed Canadian animated series Corner Gas Animated as a branded IMDb Original series.

Beginning Oct. 15, 24 episodes of “Corner Gas Animated” seasons one and two will be available for the first time in the U.S. on the IMDb TV app on Fire TV, the Prime Video app, IMDb.com and the IMDb mobile apps.

The series is joined on IMDb TV by Canada’s highest-rated live-action comedy franchise of all-time, Corner Gas, including 107 episodes of the International Emmy Award nominated, six-season sitcom and the 90-minute feature film, Corner Gas: The Movie.

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Corner Gas fans can now enjoy the entire Corner Gas franchise for free in one place as it finds its new exclusive home on IMDb TV in the U.S.,” Mark Eamer, VP of IMDb TV, said in a statement.

Created, starring and executive produced by showrunner and stand-up comedian Brent Butt, the series centers around the colorful characters of Dog River — a fictional rural town forty miles from nowhere and way beyond normal.

The ensemble cast stars Brent Butt as Brent Leroy, owner of a roadside service station, with Gabrielle Miller as Lacey Burrows, Fred Ewanuick as Hank Yarbo, Eric Peterson as Oscar Leroy, Lorne Cardinal as Sgt. Davis Quinton, Tara Spencer-Nairn as Constable Karen Pelly, Nancy Robertson as Wanda Dollard, and Corrine Koslo who replaces the late Janet Wright as Emma Leroy.

The new IMDb Original series Corner Gas Animated features an all-star lineup of cameos, including actor Michael J. Fox, comedian Russell Peters, singer/songwriters Jann Arden and Sarah McLachlan, astronaut Chris Hadfield and Epic Meal Time’s Harley Morenstein.

“Corner Gas Animated” joins the IMDb Originals line-up alongside short-form series, including the animated, scripted series You’re Not a Monster, which will begin streaming later this month, as well as The IMDb Show, IMDbrief and Casting Calls.

These IMDb Originals complement IMDb TV’s extensive collection of premium movies and TV shows across a range of genres, including comedy, kids and family, romance, thrillers, science fiction, documentaries, horror and more.

Fans of the hit show The Middle can enjoy all nine seasons exclusively on IMDb TV, along with other popular series, like Midsomer Murders and Columbo. Movie buffs will also enjoy must-watch titles, including Academy Award-winning film La La Land, Academy Award-nominated film Drive, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and more.

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.”

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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.