The president and chief executive officer of CBC/Radio-Canada says the public broadcaster is still open to production partnerships with Netflix, contrary to reports last fall that she had ruled out deals with the streaming service because they undermined the long-term viability of the Canadian TV and film industry.
“That was incorrect journalism,” Catherine Tait said in an interview. “I was misquoted.”
Ms. Tait made the comments to The Globe and Mail after a lunchtime chat Tuesday with the businesswoman and CBC personality Arlene Dickinson, hosted by the Canadian Club.
She was referring to a report last October in the Financial Post, which claimed “the broadcaster will no longer work with Netflix Inc.” Other media outlets picked up the report, with some stories suggesting the CBC’s reported Netflix ban was behind the cancellation in November of the acclaimed drama Anne With An E, which aired in Canada on the CBC and streams around the world on Netflix.
Ms. Tait said her comments had been misinterpreted. “Our position is, we want to be in business with as many partners as possible, to help produce and amplify great Canadian stories, all over the world, but also here in Canada,” she told The Globe. “Our priority is on securing the best possible deals for Canadians, for Canadian creator-owned intellectual property, and to ensure that CBC – and I’m assuming my private broadcaster partners feel the same way – that there is in fact a window in Canada, so that Canadians can enjoy these programs that we’re financing with public dollars, on CBC or [the streaming service] CBC Gem.”
Ms. Tait and Netflix have had a famously testy public relationship since she took the top CBC job in the summer of 2018. Last January, at an industry event in Ottawa, she compared the streaming service to the British Raj, arguing that the company’s dominance could swamp the domestic production capabilities and local culture of smaller countries such as Canada.
Ms. Tait is not alone: A number of countries regard Netflix with similar wariness, and some, such as France, have passed regulations demanding the company fund local production activities. Two years ago, the Canadian government announced Netflix had committed to spending $500-million over five years on TV and films produced in Canada, but critics noted the commitment did not specify the funding would necessarily support what is known as Canadian content: shows that have Canadians in key roles, such as writers, directors or producers.
Still, Netflix has helped push the CBC to greater prominence and acclaim in recent years after it picked up a number of shows the network originated, including Schitt’s Creek, which received four Emmy nominations last year, Kim’s Convenience and Workin’ Moms. CBC executives have also noted that the network would not have been able to make shows such as Anne With An E or the 2017 miniseries Alias Grace without the financial wherewithal of Netflix, which co-produced those programs.
Netflix also came on board as a co-producing partner on Season 4 of Workin’ Moms, an arrangement the CBC anticipates will continue if it orders a fifth season of that comedy.
On Wednesday, a CBC/Radio-Canada spokesperson told The Globe that the public broadcaster was in frequent discussions with the streaming service. "We speak to Netflix regularly about potential projects,” Leon Mar said in an e-mail.