The call for Internet and Netflix taxes are not the only demands raised by Canadian cultural groups regarding online video services. Many groups argue that the services should be required to make Canadian content more prominent, citing the challenge of “discoverability” of Canadian content in a world of seemingly unlimited choice. While the ACTRA call for government sanctions against search engines that refuse to prioritize Cancon in search results is an extreme example, many have asked the Broadcast and Telecommunications Legislative Review panel to either mandate that a certain percentage of the Netflix library consist of Canadian content or that it more actively promote Cancon on the service.
For example, Unifor wants to mandate that 20 per cent of Netflix television content be Canadian:
That 20 per cent of non-feature film programming available to subscribers be Canadian; that no less than 5 per cent of English language feature films be Canadian; and that no less than 8 per cent of French-language features films be Canadian.
Meanwhile, ACTRA calls for a 20 per cent across the board requirement:
All services offering on-demand programming content to Canadian consumers, including OTT services and music streaming services – regardless of the technology used to distribute the content – maintain a minimum of 20 per cent of Canadian content in the program selections offered to consumers.
Others focus on greater prominence for Canadian content. The CBC recommends:
Players operating in the Canadian system should provide appropriate prominence to Canadian content choices through search, menus and recommendations.
The CRTC hints at a similar requirement in the name of discoverability:
Whether it be music, podcasts, short‑form video, a one-hour drama series, feature-length film or any other type of content, regardless of what platform it is offered on, all stakeholders should be obligated and incented to promote and make content by Canadians discoverable, including government funding supports.
But how hard is it to find Canadian content on Netflix? It turns out, not very. Last weekend, I created a new Netflix account to see what someone with no algorithmic viewing history would find. I started with a simple search for Canada, which provided the following result featuring several Canadian shows (Kim’s Convenience, Frontier, and Schitt’s Creek).
The result also included the option to click on links for Canadian TV Shows, Canadian Movies, and more. Once I clicked on those links, dozens of shows and movies popped up.
After streaming about ten hours of Canadian shows – Schitt’s Creek, Kim’s Convenience, Frontier, and Heartland – I noticed that my main Netflix page now featured Canadian shows in the Popular on Netflix tab.
and a new Celebrating Canadian People, Places, and Stories tab appeared on the main page.
Not all of this content is strictly Cancon under the points system. Alongside “official” Cancon, there are programs filmed in Canada, starring Canadian actors, or featuring Canadian stories. Some might argue that only official Cancon counts. However, Canadian actors or local film production does matter: much of it counts toward Cancon points, benefits the country economically, and reflects a connection to the country. Regardless of how it is measured, however, the reality is that Netflix already has a sizable Canadian library, giving subscribers the option to watch hundreds of hours of Canadian content. Apparently, all it takes is a simple search for “Canada.”