The Netflix Deal Could be a Game Changer For Canadian Content

Half a billion dollars could help get a lot of Canadian stories told, if Netflix does it right

Leah Rosehill

At the end of September, Netflix made an announcement that could be the biggest thing to happen for Canadian content since an old man in northwestern Ontario shared his passion for duct tape with us on The Red Green Show.

The American company has earmarked at least $500 million for the creation of Canadian content over the next five years. Now, this doesn’t mean that there are going to be more American productions gumming up the streets of Vancouver, as we’ve seen so often before with shows like Arrow or The X-Files. What Netflix has promised is 100 per cent beer-soaked, puck-slappin’, flannel-wearin’ Canadian content.

If Netflix Canada delivers on what it’s promising, these next shows will be produced in Canada, by Canadians, primarily for Canadian audiences.

The announcement represents a deal between Netflix and the Canadian government, the latter of which previously considered imposing a sales tax on streaming services that Netflix lobbied hard against. The announcement was made jointly by representatives of the American corporation and Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly.

Critics of the deal have argued that it benefits Netflix more than it does Canadians. While it’s easy to see where these people are coming from based on a purely monetary standpoint, for those of us who have longed to see Canadian television production taken seriously, it’s difficult not to be excited.

With respect to the content creators working for CBC and CTV, the Canadian media landscape is in desperate need of a shake-up. Ask any Canadian what their favorite Canadian TV show is and you’ll likely hear a lot of love for Corner Gas, The Red Green Show, Trailer Park Boys, and not much else.

Trailer Park Boys—An early example of Netflix’s Canadian content since the streaming service brought the show back in 2014—is an exception, but Corner Gas and Red Green both ended in the 2000s. In the time since Brent Butt’s lovable sitcom went off the air, Canadian content producers have been looking to recreate those quirky successes with big marketing pushes for shows like Schitt’s Creek and Kim’s Convenience. But so far, Canadian television remains hungry for a big hit.

Half a billion dollars put in the hands of Canadian content producers could create loads of potential if used wisely. It’s rare that Canadian programs will take off and become wildly successful, and part of the reason for that is their limited budgets. It’s no coincidence that almost all of the most iconic Canadian shows are known for their quirkiness—because quirky humor mixed with smart writing is a great way to create productions that work on a tiny budget.

There’s nothing wrong with quirky. We’re a quirky country after all, but Canada is a vast nation filled with all kinds of people who have all kinds of stories waiting to be told. Although it depends on how Netflix decides to fund the projects that it greenlights, it has the opportunity to create Canadian television with a whole new scope.

The possibilities for the content that could come out of Canada are endless, and for decades there have been few chances to make that content available to the public. Please don’t disappoint us, Netflix.

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