Toronto Metropolitan University
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Domestic supply to global demand: reframing the challenge of Canadian English-language television drama

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posted on 2023-07-10, 15:33 authored by Irene BerkowitzIrene Berkowitz
As online TV delivery disrupts conventional TV broadcasting and unbundles TV cable channels, allowing consumers to choose programs and TV brands more directly, hit content is “king” more than ever before. This dissertation offers a new analysis of Canadian English-language TV drama content’s failure to mature into a popular genre or robust economic sector since its introduction in the 1960s, and suggests ways that the Canadian English-language TV drama value chain might be strategically adjusted in response to global market disruption, by strengthening the development phase. The problem is approached with two methodologies: value chain analysis and qualitative field research. Findings identify weak links in the value chain and propose that the Canadian English-language TV drama content model is structurally flawed and has inhibited maturation of the sector. The study theorizes a TV drama value chain composed of 3 functional segments (develop, produce, distribute) and identifies the root of the Canadian drama problem as the creation phase, known in TV as development, analogous to the R&D phase in other industries. The theorization explains why decades of policy attention and subsidies targeted to the production phase have not substantially improved domestic or global market performance of Canadian English-language TV drama. Moreover, the reframing reveals that development and distribution are functionally linked, while the production phase is the most separate. Theorization and field research concur that a strong imperative for financial returns is essential for successful creative results, from the earliest moments of development. Conversely, a weak link to monetization negatively impacts asset creation, impairing the development phase and, in the case of Canadian English-language TV drama, inhibits its capability to compete effectively in a 21st-century drama attention economy that increasingly rewards creative excellence. Interviews with stakeholders occupying elite development positions in the Canadian and Hollywood TV drama industry confirm an urgency to upgrade development to foster transformation of Canada’s TV drama model, from one purposed for domestic supply to one driven by global demand, and in so doing, future-proof Canadian TV drama for the digital age. Against the backdrop of Canada’s unique geo-cultural position vis a vis the U.S., characterized by brain drain of high-performing Canadian TV drama creators to Hollywood and attempts by Canadian English-language TV drama to compete with Hollywood hits, this research contributes to debates on cluster upgrading, local-global linkages, and economic diasporas that focus on value capture of highly skilled professionals who seek career acceleration in global escalator regions. Findings are applicable to any nation upgrading domestic creative industries which, like TV drama, are characterized by an imperative for innovation excellence in R&D-intensive global value chains.





  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Communication and Culture

Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type

  • Dissertation