Exclusive: CBC’s Format Incubator returns for third edition

Canadian pubcaster CBC has brought back its Format Incubator program for a third year in an effort to find new unscripted concepts. Partnering once again with Warner Bros. International Television Production ...
March 29, 2018

Canadian pubcaster CBC has brought back its Format Incubator program for a third year in an effort to find new unscripted concepts.

Partnering once again with Warner Bros. International Television Production (WBITVP), the incubator invites the Canadian production community to submit their pitches for original primetime unscripted formats with strong Canadian and international appeal.

The first two rounds of the Format Incubator have produced two original factual formats for the CBC, including Frantic Films’ The Stats of Life (pictured) and Proper Television’s Under New Management, both of which have been renewed, the CBC announced today (March 29).

The Stats of Life, which features data from Statistics Canada presented in a graphic-driven format, debuted as an hour-long pilot in spring 2016, followed by a 4 x 30-minute series order in fall 2017. The series has been renewed for a sophomore run as a 30-minute full series and is represented internationally by Banijay Group-owned distributor Zodiak Rights.

Under New Management, meanwhile, sees Arlene Dickinson of Dragons’ Den fame guide entrepreneurs through the process of shopping for prospective small businesses. Two back-to-back specials premiered in fall 2016 and has since been renewed as a 30-minute limited series. The format will be distributed internationally by WBITVP.

Beginning today through April 23, this year’s Format Incubator will look for original family-friendly primetime entertainment concepts that “feel big, bold and innovative” with the potential for multiple season renewals.

“We’re very aware that creativity needs guideposts, but we want to be careful of really limiting the independent community too much,” Jennifer Dettman, executive director of unscripted content at CBC, tells realscren.”We’re asking for entertainment formats that are family-friendly – that can be longer runs and not limited formats – not four episodes, but eight to tens.”

The program is open to applicants with all levels of experience and will support up to three unscripted pilots through the development and production process, including primetime broadcast on CBC.

“We’ve had so many great ideas and we’re really trying to spread the message as widely as we can because there are established indie producers and there are some amazing young creators in this country,” added Dettman.”We’re trying to make sure that they know they’re invited to participate in this as well.

“Every time we do this, we’re just trying to find those best ideas to give them a shot.”

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 CBC and WBITVP, along with provincial and federal tax credits and Canadian Media Fund backing when applicable.

Canadian producers will retain copyright of their programs. Formatted versions will be owned equally and jointly by the winning production companies, the CBC and WBITVP.

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

“It’s really hard to sell an original idea off paper – you have to have proof of concept with some numbers,” noted Dettman. “If you give us the ideas, we’re going to give you a slot on the schedule to pilot it and you’ll get some metrics and numbers. And also, you’re going to get some international intelligence about how to make your format be transferrable internationally.”

Both formats will be available for sale to the international marketplace throughout the 2018 MIPTV market in Cannes.

Full submission details can be found by following this link.  

About The Author
Senior staff writer Frederick Blichert comes to realscreen with a background as a journalist and freelance film critic. He has previously written for VICE, Paste Magazine, Senses of Cinema, Xtra, Canadian Cinematographer and elsewhere. He holds a Master of Arts in film studies from Carleton University and a Master of Journalism from the University of British Columbia.