CBC Gem stream­ing ser­vice fea­tures orig­i­nal con­tent and some old favs

Calgary Herald - - YOU - VIC­TO­RIA AHEARN

TORONTO The CBC launched a new video stream­ing ser­vice Tues­day fea­tur­ing live and on-de­mand pro­gram­ming for free, as well as an op­tion to up­grade to an ad­free pre­mium mem­ber­ship for a monthly fee.

The pub­lic broad­caster said CBC Gem has more than 4,000 hours of con­tent and will also of­fer orig­i­nal pro­gram­ming, in­clud­ing the up­com­ing drama se­ries North­ern Res­cue. Wil­liam Bald­win and Kath­leen Robert­son star in the fam­ily drama, which will launch ex­clu­sively on CBC Gem in Canada start­ing March 1.

The CBC also an­nounced a part­ner­ship with Wattpad for emerg­ing Cana­dian writ­ers to cre­ate ex­clu­sive con­tent for Gem, which gets its ti­tle from the nick­name CBC uses in­ter­nally for its logo.

Mean­while, a part­ner­ship with Tele­film Canada al­lows CBC Gem to of­fer more than 100 Cana­dian fea­ture films. All the Cana­dian films are avail­able ad-free, with ad­di­tional ti­tles from the Na­tional Film Board of Canada to be added in the com­ing year. All chil­dren’s pro­gram­ming is also pro­vided ad­free within CBC Gem.

“We’re not try­ing to re­place Net­flix,” Cather­ine Tait, pres­i­dent and CEO of CBC/Ra­dio-Canada, said in a phone in­ter­view.

“We’re say­ing, ‘You’re go­ing to be stack­ing your (over-the-top) ser­vices. Make us No. 2 or No. 3.”’

An­nounced in Septem­ber, CBC Gem re­places the pub­lic broad­caster’s pre­vi­ous app and of­fers the full pro­gram­ming slate, from drama to doc­u­men­taries and sports.

It’s avail­able for free as an app for iOS and An­droid de­vices and on­line at cbcgem.ca, and on tele­vi­sion via Ap­ple TV and Google Chrome­cast.

In­cluded are cur­rent and past sea­sons of favourite shows. Cana­dian ti­tles on the ser­vice in­clude Kim’s Con­ve­nience, Baroness von Sketch Show, Schitt’s Creek, Mur­doch Mys­ter­ies, Anne With an E, The Kids in the Hall and Be­ing Er­ica. In­ter­na­tional ti­tles in­clude For­ti­tude, The Great British Bak­ing Show, Luther, Port­landia and Top of the Lake.

Films in­clude Bar­ney’s Ver­sion, Cairo Time, Mommy and Mid­night’s Chil­dren.

The free ver­sion also has the abil­ity to live-stream CBC TV at any time, with ac­cess to 14 of the pub­lic broad­caster’s lo­cal chan­nels and their news­casts.

CBC Gem, which is ex­clu­sive to Canada, also of­fers French­language pro­gram­ming from ICI Ra­dio-Canada.

“Our un­der­stand­ing of au­di­ence be­hav­iour is the per­son who has left lin­ear tele­vi­sion has left lin­ear tele­vi­sion,” Tait said.

“So our in­ter­est is reach­ing those peo­ple who have al­ready gone to on­line ser­vices as their means of ac­cess­ing con­tent.”

The pre­mium mem­ber­ship, avail­able for $4.99 per month (with the first month free of charge), of­fers all on-de­mand con­tent ad-free and ex­clu­sive ac­cess to a live stream of CBC News Net­work 24/7.

Tait said the pre­mium side will also in­clude ad­di­tional pro­gram­ming, spe­cial pre­mières and pre­views to build value for sub­scribers. She said they looked for a price point that wouldn’t be a de­ter­rent and that would even­tu­ally pro­vide enough sub­scrip­tion rev­enue to re­place ad rev­enue. In the mean­time, the rev­enue model will rely on the re­sources the CBC cur­rently has.

“We’ve made a de­ci­sion in­ter­nally that the fu­ture of tele­vi­sion is prob­a­bly go­ing to be on-de­mand and tra­di­tional sched­uled TV is on the de­cline and there­fore we have to move with the trend — and there’s some pain dur­ing that process,” she said.

“As we build up the sub­scrip­tion base, there will not be suf­fi­cient sub­scrip­tion dol­lars to pay for the ser­vice at the out­set. Our hope, of course, is — and we’ve done that math — that if you look at the $4.99 and you get 60 per cent of English Cana­di­ans watch­ing Gem, that more or less cov­ers the ad rev­enue that we’re get­ting right now from tra­di­tional ad­ver­tis­ing.”

All con­tent on CBC Gem is avail­able with closed cap­tion­ing, and de­scribed video is avail­able for most on-de­mand con­tent.

CBC orig­i­nal ti­tles that are cur­rently on Net­flix, such as Schitt’s Creek, will re­main there de­pen­dent on the deals that are ne­go­ti­ated with each pro­duc­tion in­di­vid­u­ally, said the pub­lic broad­caster.

In ad­di­tion, CBC/Net­flix co­pro­duc­tions — in­clud­ing Anne With an E — have sep­a­rate agree­ments in which they are avail­able ex­clu­sively on CBC and CBC Gem in Canada for a spe­cific win­dow (and in­ter­na­tion­ally on Net­flix), be­fore also be­com­ing avail­able on Net­flix Canada.

The CBC said it plans to col­lab­o­rate with new part­ners in or­der to ex­pand the stream­ing li­brary and of­fer ad­di­tional Cana­dian and in­ter­na­tional con­tent.

“We are not go­ing to be buy­ing pro­gram­ming from Amer­i­can net­works, we’re not try­ing to com­pete with Net­flix,” said Tait. “This is re­ally about build­ing a ro­bust Cana­dian of­fer­ing.”


Ac­tor Wil­liam Bald­win stars in the up­com­ing fam­ily drama North­ern Res­cue, which will be of­fered on the new stream­ing ser­vice CBC Gem.

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