TORONTO — Several of CBC's hit television series are set to depart Netflix Canada at the end of February as the public broadcaster looks to bolster its own streaming service CBC Gem.
CBC said that it decided not to renew the licensing deal with Netflix for six titles, including award-winning comedies “Kim’s Convenience” and “Schitt's Creek.”
Also departing the streamer on Feb. 28 are all seasons of the western family drama “Heartland," the 20th-century detective series “Murdoch Mysteries," the amateur baking competition “The Great Canadian Baking Show" and the period drama “When Calls the Heart."
In an emailed statement, CBC's head of public affairs Chuck Thompson said CBC opted not to renew the Netflix Canada licence for those titles in order to give its own streaming service CBC Gem a programming advantage.
“We want to privilege Gem for Canadians who are looking to stream CBC programming as we continue to improve and expand our own free platform,” said Thompson.
CBC Gem includes a free ad-supported option as well as an ad-free premium version that costs $4.99 per month.
Thompson noted that many of the titles were "sublicensed before the launch of CBC Gem" to Netflix.
Citing Adobe Analytics data, CBC said audiences in Canada are streaming 3.6 million hours every month on CBC Gem, up 34 per cent over last year. It also touts growth through connected TVs, which it says is up nearly 40 per cent year-over-year, and prime-time viewing, noting 1/3 of total Gem views were initiated between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. in the past year.
Over the past decade, Canadian broadcasters have reaped the benefits of licensing past seasons of their TV series to streaming platforms. Sometimes, it would turn a cult hit into a mainstream phenomenon, at least partly because the shows were easily accessible to new audiences.
"Schitt's Creek," for instance, was once licensed to Amazon's Prime Video in Canada at the same time it was on Netflix and CBC Gem, making the hit comedy almost inescapable.
Alexandra Raffé, executive producer of “Kim’s Convenience” expressed mixed feelings about her show leaving Netflix.
“It’s a shame access to the show in Canada will shrink,” she said in an emailed statement to The Canadian Press.
“But I’d rather look at the additional exposure 'Kim's Convenience' had on Netflix Canada all these years as a bonus rather than being mad at the CBC for taking it off now.”
Programming turf wars have been playing out across all the major streaming platforms in recent years as each one looks to define itself as the exclusive destination of popular TV series.
Last year, Disney clawed back a handful of Marvel shows originally released through Netflix, including “Daredevil” and “Jessica Jones,” to make them available exclusively on its Disney Plus platform.
And in the U.S., several classic TV series, including “Friends” and “The Office,” departed Netflix for prime placement on streaming services operated by the media companies who created the shows.
At the start of this year, Bell Media's Crave ended a long-term relationship with Showtime for its programming. That means any new Showtime series could potentially land on the Paramount Plus streaming service in Canada, which is owned by Showtime's parent company.
Further complicating the matter for viewers, a Bell spokesperson said Crave will continue to carry new seasons of ongoing Showtime programs, such as "Yellowjackets" and "Billions."
Netflix spokeswoman Lindsey Scully noted that the departing CBC programming in Canada will remain available in some international markets as CBC’s production partners hold streaming rights outside of the country.
CBC also says they will continue to partner with Netflix on "second-window streaming options where it makes sense," as well co-productions such as "Workin’ Moms" and "Fakes."
Netflix is one of the U.S.-based companies currently under the shadow of the Liberals' proposed legislation to update Canada's broadcasting law.
Bill C-11 aims to address the impact of foreign online streaming platforms on the media landscape by requiring them to contribute to the creation of Canadian content.
The bill passed in the House of Commons last June and is awaiting a final vote in the Senate.
— with files from David Friend
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 1, 2023.
Noel Ransome, The Canadian Press