Industry Profile - Film & TV
- The Canadian federal government has provided $500 million in funds to support the arts, culture and sports sectors. Of this fund, over $170 million will be distributed in support of the screen-based sector, through Telefilm Canada, the Canada Media Fund, and the Canada Council for the Arts. Applications for these funds can be found through the organization websites, as well as further information on their other COVID-19 mitigation efforts.[i]
- A Nordicity study from April 2020 on the impact of COVID-19 on the Canadian screen-based media production sector estimated that between March-June 2020, $2.5 billion in screen-based media production volume would be at risk of either disruption or permanent loss, $1.4 billion of which was tied to labour.[ii]
- On average, over 162,000 total spin-off and direct workers would be affected in any given month in the time period (with March being measured only from the 16th to the 31st).[iii]
- Information from Film Ontario in April suggested that between March-June 2020, $713 million in production volume would be lost, as well as 13,500 full time equivalent jobs.[iv]
- In a study by Cultural Industries Ontario North (CION) of the impact of COVID-19 in Northern Ontario, 81.5% of participants said they had definitely lost work, contracts, or sales due to the pandemic, with another 16.2% saying maybe. Fifty per cent also said that they had lost over 20% of their annual income as a result of COVID-19.[v]
- A study released by the Documentary Organization of Canada in June 2020 showed that 49% of producers and directors of documentary films have had their projects postponed until an unknown date, with only 6% continuing as planned. Seventy per cent of interviewees said that they have been financially impacted by COVID-19. When asked to quantify the financial impact many identified too many unknowns to provide an estimate, but those that did ranged from $6,000 to $1.4 million.[vi]
- An April 2020 survey of Ontario-based VFX, animation, and post-production companies found that all of these sectors were struggling to some degree, with an estimated economic impact of up to $126 million in lost employment if physical distancing lasts beyond June. It was also found that the pandemic was disproportionally negatively affecting post-production studios, particularly those providing services other than VFX.[vii]
- On average, only 55% of employees at companies that work in non-VFX post-production were working from home, compared to an 89% average of all respondents. These companies were also at the highest risk of job loss over time, with an estimated job loss of 46% if physical distancing lasted beyond June. This was closely followed by VFX service studios, at 41%. Thirty-eight per cent of non-VFX post-production studios and 25% of VFX service studios also indicated that they were unable to pitch new work.[viii]
- In contrast, animation service studios showed the least workforce impact from physical distancing, with 100% of employees working from home and only a 4% job loss if distancing continued past June. However, these studios had by far the highest average COVID-related costs to date, at $152,100 per studio, as opposed to a survey average of $60,800.[ix]
- The Section 21 film and Television Health and Safety Advisory Committee of the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development has released their Safety Guidelines for resuming film and television production in Ontario. Other jurisdictions both nationally and internationally are implementing their own protocols, including an industry-wide task force developing a white paper for Hollywood safety guidelines.[x]
- With many provinces re-opening for filming to begin again, a number of changes are being put in place to increase safety for casts and crews, such as putting camera operators on cranes, moving non-essential crews to view filming from remote locations, and writing out crowd scenes to limit physical contact between actors. Scenes depicting close physical intimacy are still a significant challenge, with regular COVID testing of actors being considered.[xi]
- Insurance is still providing a significant hurdle to companies resuming shooting, as most insurance companies are placing COVID exclusions in their policies. As such, the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA) has asked the Canadian government to contribute $100 million to a reserve fund which will serve as a payout source for COVID-19-related insurance claims. The rest of this fund has been accumulated through the sale of COVID-specific insurance policies. With this insurance plan, producers, insurers and the government will all be taking part in protecting the film and television industry from COVID-related risks.[xii]
- A number of events and festivals have been cancelled as a result of COVID-19, with many more moving to fully online presentations. The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), set to take place in September 2020, has announced a plan to host both physical and digital screenings. TIFF has been working with Shift72 to create an online digital platform that can be used to host screenings and other festival events, allowing them to reach a much wider audience. Physical events, including in-theatre screenings, will be dependent on provincial re-opening timelines.[xiii]
- For Professional Development and Learning, please see this resource by the Ontario Film Commission.
- Please visit Ontario Creates’ website for more information on our COVID-19 response plan.
ii Nordicity, COVID-19 Impact Analysis, April 8, 2020, p. 1.
iii Nordicity, COVID-19 Impact Analysis, April 8, 2020, p. 1.
iv Data provided by Film Ontario.
vii Nordicity, CASO Impact of COVID-19: Survey Results, April 21, 2020 pp 2-3, 8.
viii Nordicity, CASO Impact of COVID-19: Survey Results, April 21, 2020, pp. 2-3, 5.
ix Nordicity, CASO Impact of COVID-19: Survey Results, April 21, 2020, pp. 2-4.
x Section 21 Film and Television Health and Safety Advisory Committee of the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development, “Film and television industry health and safety during COVID-19,” Filmsafety.ca, June 24, 2020; Chris O’Falt, “A First Glimpse at the 30-Page Hollywood Safety White Paper Being Drafted for Governors – Exclusive,” IndieWire, May 21, 2020.
xii Manori Ravindran, “Canada Eyes $75 Million Government Backstop for Film & TV Insurance Plan,” Variety, June 10, 2020; Jackson Weaver, “’Depopulating the set’: How Canada’s film industry is navigating COVID-19,” CBC, June 13, 2020; Jordan Pinto, “CMPA proposes ‘industry-wide solution’ to insurance conundrum,” Playback, June 2, 2020.
xiii Victoria Ahearn, “TIFF still planning some type of physical festival this year,” CTV News, May 28, 2020; Victoria Ahearn, “TIFF reveals 2020 plans, 1st batch of movies after layoffs announcement,” Global News, June 24, 2020.
September 2020 Profile
Ontario has long stood as a substantial player in Canada’s film and television production industry, as well as in the global market. 2019 was a particularly strong year for the Ontario industry, with the film and television production sector contributing almost $2.2 billion to the provincial economy through 343 productions.
Industry Size and Economic Impact
Note: The following information on employment, revenue and the consumer market should be considered a snapshot of activity in the industry based on the best available information. All dollar figures are in CAD unless otherwise noted. These figures do not reflect impact from COVID-19.
Employment and Wages
- In 2019, the Ontario film and television industry generated 44,540 full-time equivalent (FTE) direct and spin-off jobs, a 20.4% increase from the 37,000 FTEs generated in 2018.
- Statistics Canada’s most recent data (2017) reports that $0.9 billion was spent by the Ontario motion picture and video production industry on salaries, wages, commissions and benefits, up substantially from the $0.75 billion spent in 2015. This 2017 figure accounts for 33.9% of the national employment expenditure.
- In the 2018/19 fiscal year, the Canadian screen sector value chain created just over 270,000 FTEs, generating almost $16.2 billion in labour income and $23.7 billion in GDP between direct and spin-off impacts.
Production Volume and Budgets
- A total of 343 film and television projects were produced in Ontario in 2019, up from the 324 in 2018 and 323 in 2017. Of those 343 projects in 2019, 261 were domestic, and 82 were foreign. This is an increase of approximately 13.5% in domestic productions and a decline of 12.8% in foreign productions from the 2018 statistics. Domestic production in 2019 was almost 50% of the spend value in the year.
- Combined, these 343 Ontario-produced domestic and foreign projects contributed over to $2.15 billion to the economy. This marks a 14.5% increase from 2018, and a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.3% over the last five years.
- The overall volume of the Canadian film and television production sector grew by 5.8% to over $9.2 billion in 2018/19. Canadian television, Canadian theatrical feature films, foreign location and service (FLS), and broadcaster in-house sectors all grew between the 2017/18 and 2018/19 fiscal years, with Canadian theatrical feature film notably growing by 24.8%.
Revenues and Related Figures
- According to Statistics Canada, in 2017, Ontario made up 32.9% of Canada’s $8.3 billion in production revenue; 31.2% of the $1.4 billion in Canadian film, television and video post-production revenue; and 90.0% of the $2.3 billion in distribution revenue.
- In 2017, Ontario made up 32.9% of Canada’s $8.3 billion in production revenue; 31.2% of the $1.4 billion in Canadian film, television and video post-production revenue; and 90.0% of the $2.3 billion in distribution revenue.
- The Canadian over-the-top (OTT) video revenue is rapidly climbing, with a predicted 10.7% combined annual growth rate (CAGR) from US $1.6 billion in 2018 to a projected US $2.7 billion in 2023. Subscription video on demand (SVOD) is also expected to climb dramatically, with a projected CAGR of 11.9% between 2018 and 2023.
- Canada’s film sector is only expected to grow a small amount between 2018-2023, with a projected cinema revenue CAGR of 0.5%. In contrast, global cinema revenue increased by 5.5% in 2018.
- In spite of an increasing prevalence of streaming services, the Canadian motion picture and video exhibition industry remained strong in 2018, generating $1.9 billion in operating revenue. A significant percentage of this was derived in Ontario, at 42.7%, a gain of $62.3 million over 2016.
- The trend of “cord cutting” (cancelling TV services such as satellite, cable or fibre optic) is on the rise in Canada, with over 20% of citizens surveyed by the Media Technology Monitor saying that they plan to cut the cord in the next twelve months. Two thirds of participants who now watch TV solely through over-the-top media services (OTT) previously had TV subscription services.
- In spite of these statistics on cord cutting, a 2019 report by eMarketer on global media consumption showed that traditional linear TV was still more popular in Canada than digital streaming, with 78% of Canadian internet users having watched TV live in the previous month, and only 75.7% of internet users saying they have streamed video content. Just under 53% say they watched TV through a broadcasters’ catch-up service, and 58.3% use PVR.
- As of spring 2020, 19% of Canadians have three or more OTT subscription services, up from 12% in Fall 2019. COVID-19 may have been a contributing factor, with a quarter of participants in the Media technology Monitor’s survey saying that they have subscribed to a new OTT service during quarantine.
- According to Vividata’s Winter 2020 Survey of the Canadian Consumer, nearly 25% of survey respondents reported “binge watching” (defined as watching three or more episodes of the same show in one sitting) at least once a week. Gen Z (ages 15-18) were most likely to binge watch at 36%, with Baby Boomers least likely to do so (16%). Adults also spent an average of five hours every week streaming video.
Trends and Issues
The film and television industry faces a number of issues and trends.
Growth Rate and Industry Trends
- As the global film and television subscription video on demand (SVOD) market grows, more and more studios are creating their own streaming services. Some key services that have been introduced include: Apple’s Apple TV +, launched worldwide on November 1, 2019; Disney’s Disney+, launched in Canada on November 12, 2019; WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, launched in spring of 2020 (HBO Max content will be available in Canada on Crave and CTV-branded platforms); and NBCUniversal’s Peacock, with a United States launch date of April 2020 and international rollout plans in the works.
- The influx of new streaming services marks the beginning of what Parrot Analytics refers to as “the streaming wars”, as a SVOD services compete for the finite resource of audience attention. However, the extent to which streaming TV is being divided up among an increasing range of SVOD services may be responsible for a recent up-tick in piracy, as it becomes prohibitively expensive for consumers to access all the content which interests them.
- Netflix in particular is suffering as a result of these “streaming wars” as increased competition threatens to overturn the streaming service’s success much in the same way it overturned many of the major studios. In summer of 2019, Netflix reported its first even loss of US subscribers in eight years, followed by a significant stock drop, all before many of the competing services came fully online.
Global and Domestic Issues
- Many countries are developing a complex relationship with Netflix when it comes to content creation, and Canada is no exception. The CBC has said that they will no longer work with the streaming giant, due to feelings that such partnerships are doing more to benefit Netflix than domestic industry. This is in part because streaming services like Netflix, unlike Canadian broadcasters, are not required to collect sales tax in Canada, nor are they required to put 5% of their gross revenue into the Canada Media Fund. However, Netflix continues to invest in producing film and TV content in Canada following a 2017 deal with the Department of Canadian Heritage to spend $500 million over five years, and had already exceeded that target as of fall 2019.
- UK-based Cineworld Group PLC had entered into an agreement to buy Toronto-based theatre company Cineplex Inc. However, Cineworld cancelled the deal on June 12, 2020 claiming that “a material adverse effect” had occurred. Cineplex has filed a lawsuit against Cineworld claiming that Cineworld’s cancelling of the deal was “buyer’s remorse,” and that Cineworld delayed seeking regulatory approval under the Investment Canada Act to allow COVID-19 to increasingly adversely affect Cineplex, thereby allowing Cineworld to claim that Cineplex had breached contractual obligations.
- Despite dramatic 1.3 million square foot increases in available production space in Ontario, a 2019 study by Nordicity suggests that demand will still outstrip supply in the next five years. Whether this prediction will be affected by restrictions due to COVID-19 is currently uncertain. There are also concerns that US productions (particularly for streaming services) are squeezing out Canadian content in the competition for studio space.
- New studio space continues to become available in the province, including a new CBS production hub in Mississauga, three new soundstages from Studio City in Toronto, and a film hub hosting four sound stages in Ottawa.
- Northern Ontario continues to hold a key role in the film and television ecosystem of the province, with annual production spend having almost tripled to $100 million over the last several years. As film industry companies move to places like North Bay, efforts are being made to persuade film industry workers from larger city centres to relocate, as well as supporting the students, programs and facilities of Canadore College.
- Improving inclusivity and representation has been spotlighted in recent years with a number of initiatives.
- As of summer 2019, the National Film Board of Canada reached its 2020 commitment to spent at least 15% of its production funds on Indigenous works. Telefilm has also been attempting to amplify Indigenous voices, with over $4 million in funding going to films from Indigenous writers, directors and producers.
- Telefilm is also drawing closer to their goal of gender parity, with 61% of films funded in the 2018/2019 fiscal year having women as lead producer. Representation of female writers and directors are still behind the mark, at 41% and 39% respectively. CBC also achieved gender parity in 2018/19 with 62% of key creative roles held by women. Other Canadian broadcasters who have set goals to achieve parity by 2025 include Bell Media, Blue Ant Media, Corus Entertainment, Roger Media, TVA, and WildBrain.
- A coalition of over 50 Canadian independent producers and production companies have started a Producers Pledge initiative encouraging producers and production companies to contribute a percentage of their allocation from the recently distributed Telefilm/Canada Media Fund COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund. These contributions will go towards supporting Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) producers and creators. The coalition calls on white creators and organizations to make space for and provide support to BIPOC creators, including committing to BIPOC projects, developing inclusivity policies, setting hiring thresholds, and other initiatives.
- Reelworld Film Festival and Reeworld Screen Institute have developed a new report, Changing the Narrative: 2020 Status of Canadian Black, Indigenous and People of Colour in Canada’s Screen-based Production Sector, which provides an in-depth look at the experiences of Canadian Black, Indigenous and People of Colour screen workers, and assess to what degree they are able to equally participate in the Canadian screen sector.
- Early in 2020, a website called Film in Colour launched, which acts as a database for Canadian film and television workers who identify as members of visible minorities. The website hopes to combat claims that it is difficult to find diverse talent in order to have broader representation in filming crews. The database was developed with assistance from Toronto-based organization BIPOC TV & Film. A similar initiative was launched by Reelworld following their Changing the Narrative report in July, entitled Access Reelworld.
- On January 29 2020, the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel delivered a report on modernizing the legislation governing Canada’s communications sector entitled Canada’s Communication Future: Time to Act. The 97 recommendations focus on supporting the creation, production and discoverability of Canadian content; improving the rights of the digital consumer; and renewing institutional framework. The report particularly emphasized the importance of making film and television streaming companies subject to regulation and spending obligations in order to better support Canadian content. While development may have been temporarily delayed due to COVID-19, the federal government committed to updating the Broadcasting and Telecommunications Acts in the wake of the report.
Note: The information included in this section is an overview of some of the government support to the film and television sector. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list of government support available.
- Ontario film and television producers have access to provincial government funding through tax credits including the Ontario Film and Television Tax Credit (OFTTC), the Ontario Computer Animation and Special Effects Tax Credit (OCASE), and the Ontario Production Services Tax Credit (OPSTC). Ontario Creates provides funding to trade and event organizations in the production sector through the Industry Development Program for events and activities that stimulate the growth of the industry, and for producers to participate in export activities through the Export Fund– Film and Television.
- Ontario feature film producers also have access to provincial government funding through the Ontario Creates Film Fund in Production, Development and Marketing and Distribution Initiative streams. The Fund is designed to increase the level of domestic feature film production in Ontario, and provides support to feature film producers in the final stages of development and production financing.
- The Ontario government has established a Film and Television Advisory Panel, who will provide expert advice to the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries and the Ministry of Finance on how to grow the film and television industries in the province.
- Supporting the growing film and television industry in northern Ontario, the provincial government has invested over $7 million in a number of productions filming in the North Bay area.
- The 2019 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) took place from September 5, 2019 to September 15, 2019. Ontario was well-represented at last year’s successful iteration of the Festival, with nine films supported by the Ontario Creates Film Fund premiering: American Woman, Castle in the Ground, Clifton Hill, Guest of Honour, Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band, Tammy’s Always Dying, The Rest of Us, The Song of Names, and This is Not a Movie.
- Ontario was well-represented at the 2020 Canadian Screen Awards. In film, The Song of Names won five awards in sound, music and makeup; Goalie star Mark O’Brien won the award for Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role; and Brotherhood won Achievement in Visual Effects. In TV, Cardinal won seven awards including Best Drama Series; Best Lead Actor, Drama Series; and Best Lead Actress, Drama Series. Schitt’s Creek, won six awards, including Best Comedy Series; Best Lead Actor, Comedy; and Best Lead Actress, Comedy. PAW Patrol won four awards including Best Pre-School Program or Series, and Corner Gas Animated won three awards including Best Animated Program or Series. Other award-winning Ontario content includes Holly Hobbie, Amazing Race Canada, and Mary’s Kitchen Crush.
- Ontario sketch comedy show Baroness Von Sketch received international attention, claiming the best comedy prize at the Rose d’Or awards.
Profile current as of July 21, 2020
1 Ontario Creates, 2019 Production Statistics, 2020. Data represents expenditures of all productions using Ontario Creates-administered incentives and services. Data does not include television commercials, corporate videos, music videos, or broadcaster in-house production.
2 Ontario Creates, 2019 Production Statistics, 2020. Data represents expenditures of all productions using Ontario Creates-administered incentives and services. Data does not include television commercials, corporate videos, music videos, or broadcaster in-house production; Ontario Creates, 2018 Production Statistics, 2019.
5 Ontario Creates, 2019 Production Statistics, 2020. Data represents expenditures of all productions using Ontario Creates-administered incentives and services. Data does not include television commercials, corporate videos, music videos, or broadcaster in-house production.
8 Statistics Canada, Table 21-10-0059-01 – Film, television and video production, summary statistics. (Accessed April 26, 2019); Statistics Canada, Table 21-10-0068-01 – Film and video distribution, summary statistics. (Accessed April 26, 2019).
9 Statistics Canada, The Daily – Film, television and video production, 2017. (Accessed June 5, 2020); Statistics Canada, Film, television and video post-production, 2017. (Accessed June 5, 2020); Statistics Canada, The Daily – Film and video distribution, 2017. (Accessed June 5, 2020).
16 Vividata, “Capturing the dynamic media habits of Canadians: Vividata’s Winter 2020 Survey of the Canadian Consumer,” Vividata, February 5, 2020; Bree Rody, “Has streaming actually changed the way we consume content?” Playback, February 12, 2020.
17 Daniele Alcinii, “WarnerMedia reveals HBO Max as name of SVOD service”, Reelscreen, July 9, 2019; Brad Bennett, “Canadians will be able to stream HBO Max content on Crave”, mobilesyrup, October 30, 2019; Jordan Pinto, “Disney+ sets Nov. 12 for Canada launch”, Playback, August 19, 2019; Tamsin McMahon, “Apple unveils new streaming service targeting Netflix, Amazon Prime”, The Globe and Mail, September 10, 2019; Frederick Blichert, “NBCUniversal names streamer, unveils launch slate”, Playback, September 17, 2019.
18 Parrot Analytics, “The 30,000 Foot View: A Preview of The 2020 Streaming Wars – Chapter 1: The Currency of the Streaming Wars”, Parrot Analytics, September 12, 2019; Marsha Silva, “A Flood of New Streaming Video Services Could Turn Users Into Pirates, Study Finds”, Digital Music News, September 27, 2019.
20 Adam Benzine, “CBC will no longer work with Netflix to produce shows, says Catherine Tait,” Financial Post, October 8, 2019; Susan Krashinsky Robertson, “Netflix says it has exceeded spending on TV and film production in Canada in just two years,” The Globe and Mail, September 26, 2019.
21 The Canadian Press, “Cineplex’s takeover by U.K.-based Cineworld approved by shareholders,” The Toronto Star, February 11, 2020; Jordan Pinto, “Cineplex seeks more than $2.18B in damages against Cineworld,” Playback, July 6, 2020.
22 Lauren Malyk and Jordan Pinto, “Additional Ontario studio capacity still won’t meet demand: report,” Playback, October 2, 2019; Simon Houpt, “Dark side of the boom: How an explosion of U.S. TV and film production in Toronto is squeezing Canadian creators out of the picture,” The Globe and Mail, November 8, 2019.
23 Jordan Pinto, “CBS throws open the doors to new Mississauga studio,” Playback, September 27, 2019; Jordan Pinto, “Studio City breaks ground on three new Toronto soundstages,” Playback, June 16, 2020; David Sali, “Finance committee approves $40M loan to get Ottawa sound stages off the ground,” Ottawa Business Journal, March 9, 2020.
24 SooToday Staff, “New partnership to service northern film industry,” Timmins Today, October 21, 2019; Megan Evans, “North Bay becoming a preferred location for film industry” CTV News, January 30, 2020; Jeff Turl, “Firm catering to film industry sets up shop in North Bay,” Northern Ontario Business, August 30, 2019.
25 Chris Young, “National Film Board of Canada’s Indigenous Action Plan is on track to meet 2020 production targets,’ The Globe and Mail, June 19, 2019; Lauren Malyk, “Telefilm invests $4M across eight Indigenous features,” Playback, June 28, 2019.
26 Kelly Townsend, “Telefilm achieves gender parity for female producers in 2018/19,” Playback, August 1, 2019; Kelly Townsend, ‘Canadian broadcasters reveal their gender parity goals for 2025,” Playback, October 3, 2019.
29 Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel, Canada’s Communications Future: Time to Act, 2020; Jordan Pinto, “BTLR report proposes sweeping overhaul of Cancon funding system,” Playback, January 29, 2020; Kelly Townsend, “Liberals aim to table updated Broadcasting Act by June,” Playback, January 30, 2020.