Communications for Business
Communications for Business
Local Television

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. 

Local Television Stations Are Going Extinct

You would think in the age of the selfie, social media, and people’s desire for personalized content that local local television programming would be exploding right now, but it’s not. An unfortunate effect of Canada’s media monopoly is that decisions are often made for the corporation’s “greater interests” as opposed to focussing on a localized niche community of customers and their needs. 

Instead of bargaining with program creators (TV channels) Canadian internet providers and phone companies just bought them so they could control both the content and the physical infrastructure it’s delivered through. The quality of many shows suffered as a result because the diverse environment of creators was now amalgamated into a few large corporations whose priorities did always necessarily align with making good TV. For example you could have a Canadian broadcaster that is more interested in selling phones and data as opposed to the quality of the content being viewed on them. 

Much Music

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.