Disney+ Pauses Original Programming Commission in Canada: Report

Disney+ has reportedly halted all original commissions in Canada until at least the end of 2023, with the possibility of extending into 2024, reports Variety, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter.

Disney+ officially debuted in Canada in November 2019. Like its counterparts in the region, it has taken some time for the service to produce original content. Last summer, Disney+ brought on board esteemed Telefilm executive Stephanie Azam as its director of content for Canada, a move that sparked interest in the local sector.

In a September industry conference, Jason Badal, VP and general manager for Disney+ in Canada, discussed preliminary goals, expressing an interest in creating more mature content for Star (the international equivalent of Hulu, FX, and Fox), with a preference for serialized shows over standalone features.

“We want to be able to communicate in a simple and efficient way,” Azam stated during the conference, hinting at the imminent announcement of specific content guidelines for pitches. However, no such guidelines have been issued yet, and Disney+ has not commissioned any original content from Canada.

This lack of activity from Disney+ was a topic of discussion at the recent Banff World Media Festival in Alberta. In contrast, Paramount Global had a robust presence, with CBS chief George Cheeks delivering a notable keynote and Paramount+ announcing its initial content slate for Canada.

One factor in Disney’s Canadian standstill could be the recently passed Bill C-11, Canada’s Online Streaming Act. The act, enacted in late April, mandates that online streaming services invest in Canadian content, mirroring obligations traditional broadcasters already fulfill. The act could potentially allow streaming platforms to qualify for specific financial incentives and tax breaks. It currently awaits comprehensive guidelines from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

Disney’s silence may also be attributed to its internal challenges. Recently, the company achieved its target of 7,000 layoffs as part of a $5.5 billion cost-saving initiative. $2.5 billion of this target comprises “non-content costs,” including labour. The company aims for an annual reduction of $3 billion in non-sports content costs over the coming years.

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