CBC to relaunch TV app as Gem, focus on kids content

President and CEO Catherine Tait outlined the CBC's OTT programming future, including a commitment to double its kids content, which currently stands at 225 hours.
September 12, 2018

By Regan Reid and Katie Bailey

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

The strategic plan was announced today by CBC president and CEO Catherine Tait, who also emphasized a commitment to double the amount of kids content on the service. Programming for children currently stands at 225 hours, including both library and 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],” said Tait during a press conference.

She also noted that the pubcaster will be looking for both French- and English-language content, focusing on Canadian film and TV content, children’s programming and experimenting with form. Like CBC TV, Gem will be offered in free and paid versions when it launches in December, the paid version costing US$3.84 per month.

“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. 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.

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 president and CEO 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. “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 says. “That’s where we’re at on this. It’s unbelievably exciting.”

Tait explained that 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 dramas to digital originals. It too has free and ad-free paid versions, the latter of which launched in 2014.

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