TVO refocuses on digital content, cuts jobs

CEO Lisa de Wilde says docs are to become even more important to the TVO schedule, as the Canadian network announced a restructuring which will see it cut 35 to 40 jobs and increase its focus on digital content.
November 14, 2012

Ontario pubcaster TVO has unveiled a comprehensive restructuring roadmap, one that the organization said on Tuesday [November 13] would better orient it for the four-screen era and refocuse its efforts on content for the children’s and current affairs niches.

The plan calls for job cuts, with between 35-40 current employees leaving TVO by the end of March 2013.

“We reviewed the whole organization; we are essentially taking 20% [of the job reductions from] the non-union and management, so we’re consolidating six departments into three,” TVO CEO Lisa de Wilde told realscreen‘s sister publication Playback. She added that two departments have been consolidated in content and programming, along with two in finance and two in technology.

The balance of the reductions, she said, are going to be part of a process that the organization will set up with the unions, which also began on Tuesday.

De Wilde added that a total of nine non-union and management employees were told Tuesday that they will be leaving the pubcaster.

The job cuts are in addition to TVO reducing expenses and re-allocating resources into digital development, all for a net reduction of CAD$2 million (which is 5% of its provincial operating grant or 3% of its total budget).

The reduced resources also mean that TVO will discontinue three series at the end of next spring – Allan Gregg in Conversation, the ‘Big Ideas’ lecture series, and the long-running Saturday Night at the Movies.

The increased focus on digital content is, according to the organization, a response to multi-platform content distribution, new business models and financial constraints.

The job cuts at TVO will see fewer staff dedicated to traditional TV production, and instead filling “multifunctional roles that leverage the efficiencies of digital technology.”

Kids and current affairs focus

The two priority areas for digital development and innovation going forward will be in the kids and current affairs arenas.

In the kids’ space, that means putting more resources into creating more educational curriculum-based content, De Wilde said.

“This is a very exciting time around education, pedagogy and technology. We think we can be real pioneers in helping teachers teach kids, who are digital natives. We think that we can really make an impact around 21st Century learning,” she added.

That means further developing existing partnerships, like TVO’s relationship with OISE, through which it tests the educational effectiveness of its content; and building new ones, like pacting with Waterloo-based ClevrU last month to bring TVOKids content to mobile phone users in China.

“The beauty of that partnership is that we are re-purposing the content we are creating for our mission here in Ontario, and repackaging it for sale on mobile platforms in China,” said De Wilde.

And exploring new business models will continue to be a part of the digital strategy going forward.

“Revenues are fundamental to our sustainability, so yes, we are exploring constantly how we can, within the sandbox of our educational mandate, monetize and grow new revenue streams,” she said.

While some staples of TVO’s broadcast schedule will not return after next spring, De Wilde said the core of the organization’s programming will remain unchanged, particularly its commitment to documentary films and kids series, which she maintained are “critical” to TVO’s success.

The Ontario pubcaster’s main three drivers on its broadcast schedule are an all-day kids block from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., current affairs, and documentaries, which De Wilde said make up approximately 50% of the primetime schedule, and which she said would become even more important in the near future.

“Really, where we are going to be investing is in how we can use the tools that digital makes available to actually create in our current affairs space something that is an interactive hub where there is going to be an ongoing conversation,” she said.


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