In Search of the Next ‘Schitt’s Creek’: Netflix to Open Canadian Offices

In the less than four years, Netflix says it has spent a whopping $2 billion on TV and film productions in Canada. Now, the company is deepening its investment in the country. Netflix announced Thursday that it is opening a Canadian office and hiring a dedicated content executive who will work directly with the nation’s creative community. It comes as the Canadian government is considering strengthening regulations on streamers.

Netflix’s co-CEO and content chief Ted Sarandos made the announcement in a statement that celebrates the company’s deep ties to the Canadian entertainment industry, whether creating a new spin on a Canadian classic with “Anne with an E” or launching homegrown talent like Maitreyi Ramikrishnan in “Never Have I Ever.”

“Canada is an amazingly diverse country and growing our presence locally will help us share more authentically Canadian stories with the world, whether through the development of original content or through co-production and licensing opportunities. As always, the goal is to give our members great choice and control over what they watch,” Sarandos wrote.

Investment in Canadian content — “CanCon” — is a frequent political and social sticking point. Broadcast networks have long been required to air a certain percentage of homegrown shows as a means to boost local programming, but recently the government has raised the alarm about how the rise of streaming is impacting the business.

Parliament is considering legislation, the Broadcasting Modernization Act, that would impose those same kind of regulations on streamers like Netflix by forcing them to spend money to expand the reach of Canadian-created shows and movies.

“The key component will be to ensure that foreign digital players must play by the same rules as the domestic Canadian broadcasters, where the content must be owned and produced by Canadian independent producers,” Mark Bishop, executive producer and co-CEO of indie producer marblemedia, told The Hollywood Reporter last month.

The move comes as Netflix already is one of the largest investors in Canada’s industry. There was some $7.3 billion USD in production in Canada in 2019, making an increase fueled in large part by streamers, according to a report from The Canadian Media Producers Association.

While American studios and Networks have long passed off Toronto and Vancouver soundstages and streets as stand-ins for American locales, such as on ABC’s “The Good Doctor” and the “Twilight” franchise, US players have also found success in embracing content that doesn’t hide its Canadian-ness.

Most recently “Schitt’s Creek,” set in rural Ontario and produced by public podcaster CBC, became a blockbuster success in the US largely through a 2017 Netflix licensing deal. The show first began airing in the US in 2015 on Pop TV.

It’s unclear exactly how the proposed legislation would impact Netflix’s Canadian operations, but it seems the intent is more “Schitt’s Creek” and less Toronto cast as New York City.

“Trailer Park Boys,” “Kim’s Convenience,” and “Workin’ Moms” are other Canadian shows that also found successon Netflix. And Hulu’s “Letterkenny” is produced and set in Ontario.

Netflix plans to announce more details in the coming weeks “around local projects and relationships.” Sarandos’ statement referenced some 20 local partnerships that already exist, that have helped support the career development of over 600 Canadian creators. He also said that Netflix’s expansion in Canada will focus on ensuring people of diverse backgrounds have access to training, mentorship, and on-set experiences.

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