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TVO restructure to bolster kids digital innovation

Canadian provincial pubcaster TVO is cutting its current expenses by C$2 million and shaving between 35 and 40 positions from its ranks, but it's allocating more resources to digital innovation in kids educational media.
November 14, 2012

In its efforts to manage sustainability with reduced government funding, Canadian provincial pubcaster TVO is decreasing its current expenses and allocating more resources to digital innovation in kids educational media and reconfirming its commitment to kids TV producers.

Along with its educational kids programming on-air and online, TVO’s current affairs programming will get a boost, while the channel aims to shave between 35 and 40 staff members from its ranks by March 2013.

According to TVO, about 20% of the positions to be cut are manager and non-union positions from outside TVO’s bargaining unit.

To further adapt to today’s changing models for multiplatform content distribution and the educational needs of children, fewer staff will be dedicated to traditional TV production and new multifunctional roles for digital technology will be created.

As part of the reorg, TVO has consolidated six different departments into three (technology, content and finance), and over the coming months, it will assess the types of specialized skills it will need to bring on board for its new positions.

TVO will cut its current expenses by C$2 million – 5% of its Ontario operating grant or 3% of its total C$64 million budget for the current fiscal year. It also plans to raise approximately C$22 million in self-generated revenues this year from donations, corporate sponsorships, online/digital revenues and service contract fees.

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, says TVO’s CEO Lisa de Wilde.

“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 adds.

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

“The beauty of that partnership is that we are repurposing the content we are creating for our mission here in Ontario, and repackaging it for sale on mobile platforms in China,” says 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 says.

And while some staples of TVO’s broadcast schedule will not return after next spring, de Wilde says the core of the organization’s programming will remain unchanged, particularly its commitment to documentary films and kids series, which she says 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 says make up approximately 50% of the primetime schedule, and which she adds will become even more important in the schedule.

“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,” de Wilde insists.

With files  from Danielle Ng See Quan at Playback Online

About The Author
Jeremy is the Features Editor of Kidscreen specializing in the content production, broadcasting and distribution aspects of the global children's entertainment industry. Contact Jeremy at jdickson@brunico.com.

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