CBC to rebrand, relaunch TV app as Gem

In her first major address to the industry since starting as president and CEO of CBC, Catherine Tait outlined the pubcaster's vision for its OTT programming future.
September 12, 2018

By Regan Reid and Katie Bailey

Making good on its promise to focus on non-linear broadcasting, CBC is enhancing its push into the OTT space with the launch of a new brand and strategy for its CBC TV app: “Gem.”

The new name was announced today (Sept. 12) by CBC president and CEO Catherine Tait at Content Canada, a new TV-focused conference in Toronto. Tait (pictured) said Gem will see the pubcaster focusing on Canadian film and TV content, children’s programming and experimenting with form. Like CBC TV, Gem will be offered in two versions: free and paid. The paid version costs CA$4.99 a month. The rebranded app will launch in December.

“We’re not trying to compete with Netflix, they have that one nailed,” Tait emphasized, stating that the goal is for Gem to be the Canadian complement to consumers’ OTT experience. “You have Netflix and for $4.99, you’ll subscribe to Gem and you’ll get all the great Canadian experience you could possibly get.”

In support of that goal, CBC has inked a partnership with Telefilm that will see 150 Canadian films featured in Gem’s programming lineup, rolled out over the course of the year. Sponsored by Telefilm, the films will be available to stream ad-free, whether or not users subscribe to the paid service. The goal is to add 50 new Canadian films to the streaming library each year.

Tait also emphasized a commitment to double the amount of kids content on the service, which currently stands at 225 hours, with both library and, potentially in the future, new acquired content. “Hopefully we will get to a place where we can start commissioning – right now we’re looking at an acquisition strategy – but as we go forward, we want to showcase kids [content].”

On the whole, Tait stressed an increased commitment to partnering with indie producers, noting that Gem will be a home for more than just CBC originals.

Today’s announcement marks the first major speech and announcement from Tait since she stepped into the role this summer. A longtime and highly respected producer, Tait was an early believer in the digital space, pushing boundaries with both form and business model with her company, Duopoly. So it comes as little surprise that Tait expressed excitement about the prospects for innovation in form in her speech in Toronto today and a promise to “experiment with format.”

“We’re very active on digital series, web series, it’s not about a five-minute or seven-minute, it’s not about that any more – it’s about what the story needs to be told in the most effective way.” That could be on mobile, Snapchat or OTT, she said.

“That’s where we’re at on this. It’s unbelievably exciting.”

Tait explained Gem will build off of what Radio-Canada has done in French Canada with ICI, its OTT app. The service launched in 2010 and offers a full array of programming, from licensed drama to digital originals. It too has a free and ad-free paid version, the latter of which launched in 2014.

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