Ontario is one of the largest film and television production centres in North America, with the economic contribution of film and television productions supported by the Province of Ontario valued at $1.6 billion in 2017.1 Ontario is home to world-class animation and visual effects studios and includes players across all parts of the audiovisual content production and delivery value chain.
The film and TV production industry in Ontario is mainly made up of small- to medium-sized companies producing a combination of their own proprietary productions and service productions with international partners. In 2016-17, Ontario generated 35% of national film and television production volume.2
Industry Size and Economic Impact
Employment and Wages
- Film and television production continues to be an important source of employment and GDP in Canada. According to Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA)’s latest economic report on the screen-based media industry in Canada, in 2016-17, the production industry generated 171,700 full time equivalents (FTEs), including direct (i.e. cast and crew) and spin-off impacts. The full screen sector value chain (including production, distribution, film festivals, and broadcasting) generated $23.6 billion in GDP for the Canadian economy, including $10.8 billion directly within the value chain and an additional $12.8 billion in other industries within the Canadian economy.3
- In 2017, the film and television industry supported by the Province of Ontario generated approximately 32,800 full-time direct and spin-off jobs.4
- A 2017 study by CMPA looked at gender parity in the industry, both in front of and behind the camera. The study found that only 17% of Canada’s film and television directors are female. One fifth of female film directors and one quarter of female television directors come from Québec. The study also considered how gender imbalance could be addressed, providing an analysis of strategies, programs and practices within Canada and internationally.5
Production Volume and Budgets
- 2017 was a strong year for Ontario’s film and television production industry: it contributed $1.6 billion to the provincial economy (the seventh consecutive year the industry contributed more than $1 billion) and supported 32,800 jobs. Television production accounted for $1.4 billion, or 87% of the total production figure.6
- In 2017 in Ontario, there was an increase in the overall number of productions that took place compared to 2016, with domestic feature film spending increasing 16% to $80.6 million from $69.7 million. On the foreign side, television production continued to dominate; a $120 million decrease in foreign feature film spending year over year was offset by a comparable $140 million increase in foreign television spending to $653.3 million, buoyed by series such as The Handmaid’s Tale, Star Trek, and Designated Survivor.7
- On the feature film side, the number of domestic feature films produced in 2017 (38) increased from 2015 and 2016 levels (27). The number of foreign feature films (23) stayed constant in 2017 compared to 2016, but spending on these films decreased 50%.8
- According to CMPA’s Profile, in 2016-17, the total volume of film and television production in Canada jumped by 24.3% compared with 2015-16 to reach an all-time high of $8.38 billion. More than two-thirds of this growth is attributable to increased foreign services productions. Foreign investment in production9, which includes foreign location and service production as well as presales and distribution advances for Canadian film and television, increased 41% to $4.67 billion.10
- Telefilm data shows that 48 Canadian co-productions were undertaken in 2016, 37 English- language and 11 French-language, with a total budget of just over $503 million, and a Canadian share of just over $199 million. The majority (62.5%) of 2016 co-productions were television projects.11 Canada’s most common co-production partner was France, followed by the United Kingdom and Ireland.12
- A recent report from Film LA Inc. examining North American broadcast, cable and digital pilot productions in 2017, identified Ontario as one of Los Angeles’ key competitors for pilot productions. According to the report, Ontario attracted 10 pilots during the 2016-17 season, capturing a 5.8% share of pilots produced.13
Revenues and Related Figures
- According to Statistics Canada, Canadian film, television and video production revenues reached $4.85 billion in 2015, up 14.9% from $4.22 billion two years earlier. Profit margins increased to 12.7% from 6.1% in 2013. In 2015, Ontario’s total operating revenue accounted for 40.8% of national revenues, with Quebec generating 28.9% and British Columbia responsible for 24.9%.14
- The City of Toronto reported that investment in Toronto’s film and television industry, including major productions, animation/VFX, music videos and commercials, grew 29.4% between 2015 and 2016. Foreign investment in major productions filmed in Toronto (both feature films and television series) increased by 49% from 2015, while domestic major production investment decreased by 15.8%.15
- While the global cinema segment (including box office and cinema advertising, but excluding revenue from merchandise and concessions) is anticipated to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.4% over the period of 2016-2021 to reach US $49.5 billion by 2021, growth will be slower at the Canadian box office, which should see revenues increase at a CAGR of 1.3% over the forecast period, to US $832 million by 2021.16
- According to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), in 2016, total revenues generated in the television industry, including private and CBC conventional and discretionary services (such as pay TV, pay per view, video on demand), were up 1.7% over 2015, reaching $7.3 billion. Both advertising and subscriber revenues were up slightly between 2015 and 2016. However, this increase should be seen in the context of a slight downward trend over the five-year period from 2012-2016, during which the TV industry saw a negative CAGR of -0.3%.17
- The CRTC’s annual Communications Monitoring Report provides insight into the changing habits of Canadian consumers. According to the latest report, in 2016, Canadians viewed approximately 26.6 hours of traditional television weekly, a decline of 2.2% from 2015. Increasingly, Canadians are using internet-connected devices to access video content, with 23% of Canadians aged 18-34 watching television exclusively online. Canadians (18+) watched, on average, 3.1 hours of internet TV per week, compared to 2.7 hours in 2015.18 In 2016, 47% of Ontarians subscribed to Netflix, compared to 44% in 2015 and 37% in 2014. Nationally, 44% of Canadians are subscribed to Netflix, with Canadians between the ages of 18 and 34 being most likely to subscribe to the online streaming service.19
- PwC projects that the TV and home video market for Canada will continue to decline (-0.7% CAGR) through 2021, to US $8 billion. Subscription television had an 83.7% household penetration rate in 2016, down from over 90% penetration in 2012. By 2021, PwC anticipates that 11.5 million households will subscribe to traditional television in Canada, an 82.5% penetration rate. The home video segment is also in long term decline as purchase of DVDs and Blu-Rays slows and consumers increasingly seek out internet video.20
- Traditional providers are responding to these developments by offering consumers new products and services to retain business. In May 2017, Bell Media launched a new online streaming service called Alt TV. For an additional $15/month fee, the service allows existing high-speed internet customers in Ontario and Quebec to access TV channels on their phones, tablets and laptops, as a means to attract a younger demographic and capitalize on the growing trend towards online streaming.21
- According to Statistics Canada, Canadian motion picture theatres generated operating revenues of $1.8 billion in 2016, up 7.1% from 2014. The increase is related to a higher number of blockbuster films having been released in 2016 compared to two years earlier. E-commerce made up 13.2% of operating revenues. Ontario cinemas were responsible for 41.4% of national revenues. Since 2014 there has been little change in the number of people attending movies, but there has been an increase in the amount spent by those who attend and purchase tickets.22
- Telefilm’s 2017 Canadian Audiences Study identified an increase in consumers’ engagement with Canadian films: 53% of Canadians watched a Canadian movie in the past year, up 5% compared to 2016. The same study looked at which platforms were most used for various types of content and found that the television set (HDTV) is the top viewing “platform” for both movies and television, followed by subscription services (on a range of platforms). Netflix and YouTube are the top online viewing platforms for film, TV and documentaries.23
Trends and Issues
Growth Rate and Industry Trends
- According to PwC, the global traditional TV and home video segment will continue to grow, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.3%, to reach US $277.37 billion by 2021. This market segment includes digital and non-digital consumer spending on basic and premium TV subscriptions, public licence fees (where they apply), physical home video revenue and on-demand video services offered by a TV subscription provider. Meanwhile, the internet video segment will see stronger growth at a rate of 11.6% CAGR from 2016 to 2021, as consumption patterns shift increasingly to the over-the-top (OTT) market from the purchase and rental of physical media such as DVDs. The internet video market was forecast to surpass the physical home video market in 2017, and to reach US $36.7 billion by 2021.24
- CMPA recently released two companion studies on global exports of Canadian productions – one on film content, and the second on television content. The reports looked at the value chain, key trends in top exporting countries and priority markets to enhance Canada’s foreign sales. According to Telefilm data for the years 2005-06 to 2015-16 cited in the film study, similar to other jurisdictions, higher-budget ($10 million and above) Canadian films shot in English, as well as higher budget ($10 million and above) international co-productions, generate the highest volume of sales and presales. In terms of genre, drama films receive higher presales and sales than any other genre, attracting about 53% of the dollar value of all presales and 56% of total sales of completed films. Action/adventure films follow in distant second place, with 12% of presales, while Comedy is tied with Science Fiction/Fantasy/Tale in terms of share of total completed sales.25 Pre-sales are an important part of the budget, as they can cover most production costs; they are vital to the financing of independent films, accounting for between 31% to 47% of production budgets, according to several international reports.26
- CMPA’s television export study found that online streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon are generating demand for the access of world-wide rights, permanently disrupting the traditional model of selling rights on the basis of exclusive access to the program during specific time windows, in particular geographic territories.27 An additional trend highlighted in this report is the continued demand for high-end drama programming, highly sought after for its ability to create a loyal fan base. To finance the larger budgets this high-end content requires, production studios, independent producers and broadcasters are increasingly co- producing. In addition to drama, there is significant interest in procedural dramas, comedies, animation, documentary, factual and reality programs.28
- “Cord-cutting” and “cord-shaving” remain trends to watch in the Canadian (and global) television context. A recent report suggests that the Canadian market lost approximately 190,000 subscribers in 2015, and predicts a subscriber decline of 191,000 for 2016. According to the Convergence Research Group, 3.43 million Canadian households (23.7% of total households) did not have a traditional television subscription with a cable, satellite, or telecommunications provider in 2015.29 However, recent data from Media Technology Monitor (MTM) suggests that despite the pressures associated with cord-cutting and cord-shaving, the majority of English-speaking Canadians still subscribe to traditional television services.30
Global and Domestic Issues
- Canadian organizations are acknowledging and responding to ongoing revelations about gender imbalance and harassment. Several studies have revealed a lack of gender equality in the film and television sector, including reports from Canadian Unions for Equality on Screen, Women in View and CMPA.31 In March 2017, the CMF announced initiatives to increase the role of women in Canada’s television industry, including that broadcasters will be required to commit 25% of their performance envelope dollars to projects that employ a minimum number of women in the key positions of producer, writer, showrunner and/or director. This target will increase in subsequent years, with a goal of 50/50 representation by 2019-20.32 The NFB has a similar goal of reaching gender parity by 2020 in key creative roles for animation and interactive, as well as documentaries, and including cinematography, editing, music and screenwriting.33 Women in View recently released its MediaPLUS Toolkit, which showcases the creative and business cases for wider representation, gender equality, and inclusion both behind the scenes and on screen, and offers practical tips for implementing change.34
- Many discussions have been taking place in response to allegations of sexual misconduct in the entertainment industries in Hollywood and at home. The group behind #AfterMeToo, a two-day symposium held in Toronto in December 2017, is expecting to release a detailed report in 2018 with recommendations for industry and government. Canadian industry unions and associations including ACTRA, CMPA, DGC, WGC and IATSE have committed to a zero tolerance policy for harassment, sexual harassment, bullying, abuse and violence, and are among the signatories to the newly developed Canadian Creative Industries Code of Conduct, an industry-wide code of conduct released in March 2018. The coalition of industry organizations agreed to work toward improved reporting mechanisms and enforcement of existing policies, better support systems for affected individuals and the launch of an education and training campaign to ensure safe workplaces.35 Provincial and federal funding policies are also being reviewed in order to ensure that organizations receiving funding promote safe workplaces.36
- In September 2017, the federal government released its new policy framework for the creative sectors, known as Creative Canada. The policy has three pillars: investing in Canadian creators, cultural entrepreneurs and their stories; promoting discovery and distribution at home and globally; and strengthening public broadcasting and local news. The announcement included an increase to the federal contribution to the CMF, planned improvements to CAVCO film and TV tax credit administration, an investment of $125 million over five years to support Canada’s first Creative Export Strategy, and an emphasis on achieving greater gender parity and investing in indigenous creators. The Broadcasting Act and Telecommunications Act will both be reviewed in the near future and the CBC’s mandate will be examined as part of the Broadcasting Act review. Canadian Heritage also announced an agreement with American company Netflix to develop a presence in Canada that would see Netflix investing a minimum of $500 million over the next five years in original productions in Canada.37
- The creation of a new Indigenous Screen Office was announced in June 2017, as a collaboration between the NFB, the CMPA, Telefilm, CBC, APTN and CMF. The mandate of the Office will be to support the development, production, marketing of indigenous content, with the aim of building a vibrant Indigenous screen-based industry, including facilitating relationships with broadcasters, distributors, training institutions and federal funders.38 Telefilm announced that it would finance 11 new Indigenous feature films for the 2017-2018 cycle, investing a total of $4.7 million through the Production program’s Indigenous stream, exceeding an original commitment of $4.2 million.39
- In May 2017, the CRTC released its decisions on the renewal of licenses for large television groups including Bell Media, Corus Entertainment and Rogers Media, which implemented policies stemming from the CRTC’s Let’s Talk TV consultation and proceeding, launched in 2013. The decision included a decrease in the programs of national interest (PNI) spending requirements to 5%, which drew significant criticism from industry groups. In August 2017, the Governor in Council sent the decision back to the CRTC, directing them to consider “how it can be ensured that significant contributions are made to the creation and presentation of programs of national interest, music programming, short films and short-form documentaries,” as well to consider the importance of creators of Canadian programming to the Canadian broadcasting system.40
- Pinewood Toronto has plans to expand its studio space with the opening of a new facility, targeted for May 2018.41
- A recent high profile example of industry consolidation in the film and TV industry involves the Walt Disney Company’s plans for a US $52.4 billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox (subject to approval from U.S. antitrust regulators). With this move, the number of major studios in the U.S. would be reduced to five. The deal would bring more television production into Disney’s fold, with Fox contributing its stake in TV streaming service Hulu, and Disney gaining a majority share. The deal dovetails with Disney’s plans to launch two new OTT streaming services: ESPN Plus, and a second expected to revolve around Marvel, Lucasfilm, Pixar and Disney brands.42
- In July 2016, the Government of Ontario released its first-ever Culture Strategy, which established a roadmap for supporting arts and culture, based on extensive consultation with Ontarians. The final strategy focuses on four key goals: promote cultural engagement and inclusion; strengthen culture in communities; fuel the creative economy, and promote the values of the arts throughout government. Ontario’s film and television sector is recognized as an important contributor in this strategy, which notes a commitment to modernize the suite of tax credits for the screen-based industries.
- Recent research by Ontario screen-based industry organizations explores trends, opportunities, and challenges in topics like impact producing, gender parity, and regional infrastructure. A report published by the Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC) examines developments in the field of impact producing in other countries and shows how a social entrepreneurship approach to measuring and evaluating the impact of documentaries offers opportunities for filmmakers, funders and distributors.43 As gender parity and diversity become a growing focus in the screen-based industries, CMPA produced a report that reviewed global policy approaches to gender parity and highlighted specific challenges faced by women in the Canadian screen-based industries as well as views regarding potential solutions.44 Cultural Industries Ontario North published an economic impact analysis and report on Northern Ontario’s film and television production infrastructure, which catalogues the region’s key centres (these include Greater Sudbury, North Bay, Sault. Ste. Marie), past productions, production facilities and services, education and training assets. The organization also maintains the Northern Ontario Crew Database as a resource for producers working in the area.45
- Canada has become the first non-European country to join Eurimages, a film fund that supports approximately 60 European co-productions annually. Through this partnership, Canadian producers will have access to the Eurimages Fund (which comes in the form of a loan), which should facilitate an increase in co-productions with European countries.46
- Two recent decisions provide increased clarity for applicants to federal film and TV tax credits. In March 2017, the Canadian Audio-Visual Certification Office (CAVCO) issued final public notices on three topics: eligible platforms to meet the requirement of the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit (CFVPTC) that works be “shown in Canada,” the definition of ineligible genres of production, and the definition of “advertising” for the purpose of federal film or video tax credit programs.47 In April 2017, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) published an updated application policy in order to provide guidance on the CRA’s treatment of assistance for the purposes of the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit (CPTC) and Film or Video Production Services Tax Credit (PSTC). The policy describes several forms of financing, including various crowdfunding models, and discusses whether these amounts will be considered “assistance” (and therefore reduce or “grind” the tax credit).48
- Through its Film Commission, OMDC markets the province as a preferred location for filming and provides complimentary location scouting and facilitation assistance to film and television producers, both domestic and service, who are considering Ontario for their productions. OMDC maintains the Ontario Production Guide, a comprehensive directory of local providers of goods and services for the film and TV sector. OMDC, through a financial partnership with the City of Toronto and with targeted marketing support provided by industry trade organization FilmOntario, also maintains a full-time marketing presence in Los Angeles. The office provides on-the-ground marketing to attract production to Ontario as well as support to Ontario screen- based content creators in accessing the L.A. marketplace. The L.A. office continues to make an important contribution to Ontario’s foreign production activity.
- 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). OMDC 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 OMDC Export Fund– Film and Television.
- Ontario feature film producers also have access to provincial government funding through the OMDC Film Fund. 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. To help achieve Ontario’s Culture Strategy goals, which include promotion of cultural engagement and inclusion, in 2017-18 the Film Fund introduced a time-limited Diversity Enhancement to support diverse film projects. In 2016-17, the OMDC Film Fund invested in 39 development and production projects.
- Feature film producers currently have access to federal government funding through tax credits and Telefilm’s suite of financing programs. In 2016-17, Telefilm provided $68.1 million in production financing to 88 feature films, and an additional $10.0 million in marketing funding for 87 feature films.50 In November 2017, Telefilm announced several changes to its Talent to Watch program (formerly Micro-Budget Production Program) including plans to more than double the number of projects supported each year, and the establishment of automatic second film financing for short film directors and for filmmakers whose first features are internationally recognized.51
- Through its Northern Business Opportunity Program, the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation has funded several film and television production projects, most recently Letterkenny, Indian Horse, Bad Blood, Hard Rock Medical and Cardinal. Since 2013, NOHFC has supported 139 projects with more than $85.6 million in funding, which has leveraged over $397 million in direct economic activity.52
- Television producers currently have access to federal government funding through tax credits and the Canada Media Fund (CMF). In 2016-17, CMF disbursed $346.4 million through its Experimental and Convergent streams, and triggered $1.4 billion in production activity.53
- Many Ontario film, television and digital media productions earned honours at the 2018 Canadian Screen Awards. Winners included OMDC-funded films Maudie, with 7 wins including Best Picture and Best Screenplay, and animated film The Breadwinner, which won in categories including Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Score. Several Ontario TV productions received awards—among them, Orphan Black, Alias Grace, and The Baroness Von Sketch Show.
- The OMDC-supported documentary series, Hip-Hop Evolution, won a 2017 Canadian Screen Award for Best Biography or Arts Documentary Program or Series, in addition to Best Picture Editing in a Documentary Program or Series. The series also received the Peabody Award and went on to win a 2017 International Emmy for Best Arts Programming.
- More than 30 Ontario films were screened at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), including Film Fund-supported The Breadwinner (Aircraft Pictures), Don’t Talk to Irene (Lithium Studios), Indian Horse (Devonshire Productions), Long Time Running (Banger Films), Pyewacket (JoBro Productions), and Tulipani (Don Carmody Productions).
- Ontario films are well-represented on the international festival circuit. Ontario film Un traductor (Creative Artisans Media/Involving Pictures) was screened at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition and three Ontario short films were screened in the Slamdance competition.
- Numerous acclaimed series and films are shot in Ontario, including Golden-Globe winner The Handmaid’s Tale and multiple Oscar-winner The Shape of Water.
Profile current as of March 29, 2018
1 Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC), 2017 Production Statistics, 2018. Data represents expenditures of all productions using OMDC-administered incentives and services. Data does not include television commercials, corporate videos, music videos, or broadcaster in-house production.
3 CMPA, Profile 2017, pp. 23, 27.
4 OMDC, 2017 Production Statistics.
6 OMDC, 2017 Production Statistics.
9 Foreign investment in production is the value of international financial participation in Canada’s film and TV production industry, including foreign presales and distribution advances, and the total value of foreign location and service production in Canada. The figure excludes revenue earned from distribution of completed Canadian films and TV programs to foreign broadcasters.
10 CMPA, Profile 2017, pp. 4, 26. Total volume of film and television production includes broadcaster in- house production.
17 Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), Communications Monitoring Report 2017, November 2017, pp. 135-136.
18 Press Release, “CRTC releases Communication Monitoring Report data on Canadians’ viewing and listening habits,” CRTC, November 8, 2017.
19 CRTC, Communications Monitoring Report 2017, p. 203.
20 PwC, “Traditional TV and Home Video”.
22 Statistics Canada, “Motion picture theatres, 2016,” November 27, 2017.
23 Telefilm Canada, Canadian Audience Report, November 2017, pp. 18, 26.
24 PwC, “Traditional TV and Home Video”.
25 CMPA, Exporting Canadian Feature Films in Global Markets: Trends, Opportunities and Future Directions, April 2017, pp. 21-28.
26 Cited in CMPA, Exporting Canadian Feature Films in Global Markets, p. 2.
27 CMPA, Exporting Canadian Television Globally: Trends, Opportunities and Future Directions, April 2017, p. 2.
28 CMPA, Exporting Canadian Television Globally, p. 3. The Canada Media Fund has released a series of country specific profiles designed to equip Canadian producers with the information needed to succeed in international markets. Additional resources for producers include reports by the Trade Commissioners’ Service.
31 C.f. Canadian Unions for Equality on Screens (CUES), What’s Wrong with this Picture? Directors and Gender Equality in the Canadian Screen-based Industry, September 2016; Women in View On Screen reports; CMPA, Women & Leadership.
32 Press Release, “CMF announces initiatives to increase the contribution of women,” CMF, March 8, 2017.
35 Regan Reid, “Canadian industry commits to ‘zero-tolerance’ approach to harassment,” Playback, November 24, 2017; Jessica Wong, “#AfterMeToo Symposium calls for new policies against sexual misconduct,” CBC News, December 6, 2017; Press Release, “Canadian creative industries release new code of conduct,” ACTRA, March 8, 2018.
36 Regan Reid, “Joly, unions discuss harassment in creative sector,” Playback, January 18, 2018; Jordan Pinto, “OMDC addresses workplace safety, culture for funded projects,” Playback, March 9, 2018.
38 Press Release, “Key audiovisual industry organizations collaborate to create an Indigenous Screen Office for Canada,” Telefilm Canada, June 12, 2017.
39 Press Release, “Telefilm Canada Invests 4.7 million in 11 new Indigenous productions,” Telefilm Canada, August 8, 2017.
41 Jordan Pinto, “Is Toronto’s studio crunch at a tipping point?” Playback, January 9, 2018.
42 Brooks Barnes and Tiffany Hsu, “What Disney Is Getting from Fox,” The New York Times, December 14, 2017; Brooks Barnes, “Disney makes $52.4 billion deal for 21st century fox in big bet on streaming,” The New York Times, December 14, 2017.
44 CMPA, Women & Leadership.
46 Jordan Pinto, “Canada joins Eurimages”, Playback Online, March 16, 2017.
48 CRA, “Application Policy.” Available at: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tx/nnrsdnts/flm/pstc-cisp/plcs/p2017-04-eng.html
49 The information included in this section is an overview of some of the government support to the film and television sectors. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list of government support available.
50 Telefilm Canada, Play It Forward: Annual Report 2016-17, 2017, p. 9.
51 Press Release, “Telefilm Canada more than doubles its commitment to support emerging talent,” Telefilm Canada, November 27, 2017.
53 CMF, 2016-2017 Annual Report, 2017.