Lost Opportunities In Local Content
In the age of the selfie and reality television, it makes no sense to me that Canadian TV stations are not more focussed on local television programming. In the last decade we have seen the Canadian television industry turned on it’s head. Traditional television companies around the globe have taken major hits as viewers and advertisers migrate to the internet by the millions. There are so many lost opportunities in local content.
The Netflix Effect
Netflix and it’s online model of cheap, on-demand television has shattered traditional financial models for broadcast television everywhere. In Canada thousands of people in the TV industry lost their jobs as hundreds of stations and programs were either shut down or dramatically downsized. The reason this is having such a negative effect in local communities in Canada in particular is because there is a huge media monopoly in this country. If you take a look at your local television listings, in the last 10 years Canadian broadcasters have been replacing unique local content with generic centralized programming that comes from Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal or even the United States.
No-longer will you get that inside reporting on your favourite local sports team or the local charity event that is taking place because those local jobs and shows have been eliminated. Big networks say they can’t afford it, it’s not feasible, or there’s not enough interest to support it, but they are absolutely wrong – it’s a lost opportunity for all Canadians.
The rise of Much Music in the 80’s and 90’s is a great example of how local Canadian television stations could be utilized today. The brand focussed on local youth and continually adapted their shows to incorporate new an unconventional formats. Eventually kids in Toronto became aware of and contributed to this new Canadian cultural scene. It put Toronto and Canadian music culture on the map. They turned the camera on their audience before the age of reality television existed. They understood user engagement well before the age of social media which created a dynamic that I like to describe as “Reflective Culture”. They were ahead of their time.
Lax Local Television
The key ingredient to success in shaping and creating reflective culture through TV is technical quality. You don’t want the viewer to think, “Oh look at this cheap production, must be local”. I truly believe if you show someone local coverage with meaning and good production it can shape the way they see themselves and their community – It can even foster new community-identity and culture. All of a sudden you’re looking at a local show or event on TV saying to yourself, “That actually looks pretty good, I actually look good. This town ISN’T Nowhere-Ville. This is actually a pretty cool place to live”. And things begin to snowball.
“Stop focusing on the big screen and pay better attention to life on the small screen.”
Instead of cancelling local television programming or syndication coverage Canadian Broadcasters should take a page from Much Music’s glory days. Invest a little in local TV Stations. People DO want local shows that they identify with – they just don’t want it to look cheap. It makes THEM feel cheap. Stop focusing on the big screen and pay better attention to life on the small screen. There are so many lost opportunities in local content.