Ad-Free Canadian Radio & Television: What Does This Mean For Advertisers?

A new proposal from Canada's national public broadcaster, the CBC, is causing a stir in the media buying industry.

When Canadian Heritage minister Mélanie Joly instigated an extensive review of Canada's media industry, she may not have predicted that the CBC would come back with a hefty proposal. But, in a time when Canadian media companies are looking for creative ways to increase revenues, the public broadcaster has announced a rather ambitious plan—to eliminate TV commercials and radio ads completely.

While there are some who would oppose an ad-less CBC, the move may offer a silver lining to private broadcasters and direct marketing professionals. For one, the removal of ads may signal an increased effort by public broadcasters to invest in niche programming across Canada. More interest in programs from local writers and video production studios would be a magnet for homegrown talent and a boon to Canada's media economy.

The CBC has lost much of its foothold on the mainstream, with many major TV events and sports programming moving to private networks. A fully-funded CBC, released from the pressure to attract mass viewership (and therefore ad revenues) might find its own forte as a producer of media for narrower audience profiles, leaving mass-market programming to private broadcasters who increasingly cater to broad audiences. CBC has already dropped hints of a new direction—such as its foray into late-night dark comedy Four in the Morning.

As for radio and television advertisers wishing to target those niche audiences, there are still plenty of opportunities to earn mindshare through other avenues besides public broadcast. In fact, the Canadian government just announced that it will start permitting pay TV channels to run ads. Soon, direct marketing campaigns will be able to place ads alongside the most-watched pay TV programs, from kids entertainment to critically acclaimed network shows.

So, if the government does approve CBC's move to close its door to advertisers, we can be sure it plans to open many others.