CBC brings back Format Incubator for second year

With its initiative's first pilot, Anything But Average, now in series development, the Canadian pubcaster has renewed the incubator program, in partnership with Warner Bros. International Television Production.
August 31, 2016

The CBC is bringing back its Format Incubator program for a second year, this time partnering with Warner Bros. International Television Production (WBITVP) in its search for new unscripted concepts.

Like its debut year, the latest iteration of the incubator is geared towards the Canadian indie production community and will support up to three unscripted pilots through the development and production process. The pilots will then be broadcast in primetime on CBC in September 2017.

Each pilot will benefit from development and creative editorial support from CBC and WBITVP and an expedited distribution process to bring their concept to the international market. Pilots will be financed by both CBC and WBITVP, plus federal tax credits, if applicable, and Canadian producers will retain copyright of the program, and the format will be owned equally and jointly by the production company, CBC and WBITVP.

The ultimate aim of the incubator is to boost the creation of original, exportable TV formats whilst bringing Canadian creative innovation the the world.

Warner Bros replaces CBC’s inaugural incubator partner, Banijay Group (formerly Banijay International), and brings not only an extensive distribution reach, but also a high level of familiarity with the Canadian pubcaster and local indie prodco community, Jennifer Dettman, executive director, unscripted content, CBC, told realscreen.

“We work with [Warner Bros.] quite a bit and they get us at the CBC,” said Dettman. “As well, Adam Steinman (VP, non-scripted international development and sales at WBITVP) understands the Canadian marketplace. He has relationships with the independent producers here, which was important. They are a distribution company that has a huge international reach, which I think is really important with this project.”

The other thing WBITVP brings to the table, she added, is 20 production arms throughout the world from which the CBC can pull extensive creative intelligence in different international markets to help shape the ideas it selects for success internationally.

Another key difference in year two is that ideas don’t require provincial and federal tax credit eligibility. That means, while formats must still fall under the two required programming areas (field-based factual, which is meant to “take people on a journey of knowledge, have interesting characters, strong narrative, stylistic production and editing, and a unique point of view,” and studio-based smart entertainment, which is geared towards adults 25-54 and families, and provides a collective viewing experience that reaches out to the audience to participate in the program in different ways), they can now include talk shows and game shows, which are ineligible for said credits.

“I think for creativity to happen you have to not put too many constraints on it,” said Dettman. “We want to allow independent producers to come up with any idea that would fit for us here at the CBC — which would be distinct — and that would be a format that would be able to travel internationally.”

In year one, the incubator program garnered 50 submissions from Canadian indie produces. The first pilot to emerge — Anything But Average (pictured), which featured a concept that used population stats, graphics and human stories to explore the nature of diverse families in Canada today — aired in spring 2016 on CBC. In all, the pilot earned a cumulative reach of close to one million Canadians, according to CBC statistics. A full series is currently in development with the pubcaster and production company Frantic, which is being represented in the international marketplace by Zodiak Rights, part of the Banijay Group.
Proposals for year two of CBC’s Format Incubator are being accepted until Sept. 28.

About The Author
Managing editor with realscreen publication, an international print and online magazine that covers the non-fiction film and television industries. Darah is an award-winning journalist who has spent over two decades covering a wide range of issues from real estate and urban development to immigration, politics and human rights, primarily with The Vancouver Sun. Prior to joining realscreen, she was editor of Stream Daily, realscreen's sister publication covering the dynamic global digital video industry. She also served a stint as a war reporter in Afghanistan for television and print, and was a national business blogger with Yahoo Canada.