You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Canada’s NFB to Launch Global Docu Platform (EXCLUSIVE)

Subscription service will launch in 2014

TORONTO — Canada’s National Film Board is in talks with potential partners for a global, multiplatform service dedicated to documentary film and content, NFB topper Tom Perlmutter told Variety in advance of the initiative’s official announcement on Tuesday during the Hot Docs film festival in Toronto.

The as-yet-unnamed curated subscription service will launch in 2014 in North America and Europe. Pricing is yet to be set.

Initiated by the NFB, the venture will operate as a public-private partnership with the NFB serving as a minority partner with a longterm interest in assuring high-end quality.

While more participant, financial and curatorial details will be unveiled throughout the year, the overall shape and intention of the new service is in place.

Perlmutter said the NFB brings to the table an approximately $5 million value proposition, the key being major infrastructure investment brought online over the past five years.

“The robust technological infrastructure we created for our own needs has the ability to expand its use,” said Perlmutter, referring to the NFB’s online screening room launched in early 2009 in response to rapid changes in the market and consumer demands.

The 75-year-old NFB has a 13,000-title library, still in the process of being digitized, which contains plenty of appropriate content that will be part of the service’s offering.

“People want a simple experience that allows them to play a film quickly, at the quality that is appropriate to the service they have, and they want the process of curation to be accessible and to allow the ability to search and include customized areas of functionality — like multiplatform adaptability and social network experiences — that other services don’t do,” continued Perlmutter.

The advantage of online subscription delivery means the service can offer a range of docs mostly unavailable on TV. “It can offer short and experimental films and feature docs, as well as interactive documentaries, and we plan to move quickly into setting up a fund for original programming,” said Perlmutter. “The idea is to find the films and respond to their needs, create live events, such as director Q&As for relevant docs.”

While the new service, which will launch in English and French with an aim to expand its language base, adheres to the NFB’s mandate to create and distribute innovative and distinctive audiovisual works based on Canadian points-of-view and values, it also responds to global needs.

“Auteur and POV docs are having a tough time in the current TV landscape, with the shift towards unscripted reality shows,” Perlmutter said. “Anecdotally, we know filmmakers everywhere are finding it harder or impossible to get licenses for one-off docs and there’s an abundance of market reasons for that.

“The irony is that interest in these kinds of docs is growing,” he said, citing the aud growth of the Hot Docs fest and its year-round doc cinema The Bloor, launched a year ago, as domestic examples of the global appetite.

“Television is moving in a different direction and services that exist, such as Netflix, Amazon, iTunes and others, are scattered and are not particularly geared towards doc audiences.

“Our own preliminary research shows there is a global niche audience that is not being served,” Perlmutter said. “This is something the world needs and why shouldn’t Canadians lead the way?”

Popular on Variety

More Digital

  • Tony Ayres - International Live Action

    Netflix Boards Tony Ayres' Tech Thriller 'Clickbait'

    Top Australian film and TV creator, Tony Ayres, “Harry Potter” producer David Heyman and Christian White have set up “Clickbait,” a new thriller series for Netflix. It probes probing the dangers of social media and the widening gulf between people’s real and virtual selves. The show is to be produced in Melbourne, Australia through NBC [...]


    Netflix's Podcast Slate 'Deepens' Space Around Original Content, Programmers Say

    It should come as no surprise that, in its quest to become a full-blown entertainment ecosystem, Netflix has built a roster of podcast programming to complement its scores or original series and films. The programs recruit top talent and hosts to hang out and talk about the streaming giant’s TV and film content. It’s a [...]

  • Netflix-logo-N-icon

    Netflix Is Testing Human-Curated 'Collections'

    Netflix, a company powered by the strategic use of data, relies on artificial intelligence to suggest new content that its streaming customers are likely to be interested in. Now it’s looking to potentially add a human touch: The company has launched a limited-scale test of “Collections,” a new feature that presents groups of movies and [...]

  • wolves in the walls emmy

    Neil Gaiman VR Experience 'Wolves in the Walls' Wins Primetime Emmy

    “Wolves in the Walls,” the virtual reality (VR) experience based on Neil Gaiman’s children’s book by the same name, has been awarded with a Primetime Emmy for outstanding innovation in interactive media. The experience has been produced by San Francisco-based immersive entertainment startup Fable, which puts a big effort on making the viewer a participating [...]

  • The Void San Francisco

    The Void Teams Up With Sony Pictures for New Location-Based VR Experience

    James Murdoch-backed virtual reality (VR) startup The Void has teamed up with Sony Pictures Virtual reality to produce a new location-based VR experience, according to Curtis Hickman, the startup’s chief creative officer. Hickman revealed the partnership in a conversation with Variety this week, during which he also outlined plans to bring more original IP to [...]

  • US President Donald J. Trump speaks

    Apple Stock Down 4.6% After Trump ‘Orders’ Companies to Leave China

    Apple’s share price was down around 4.6% Friday at the close of the market, to $202.64 per share, after President Trump took to Twitter to “order” U.S. companies to leave China. The slide came amid a market-wide sell-off, with the NASDAQ sliding 3%, and the Dow dropping 623 points. Trump’s edict was a response to [...]

  • Former head of CAA China Peter

    Peter Loehr to Spearhead Asia Expansion of Genies Avatar Venture (EXCLUSIVE)

    Peter Loehr, the former head of CAA in China, and seasoned music executive John Possman have been tapped by digital avatar company Genies to lead its expansion into Asia. The company’s proprietary avatar technology allows users to express ideas, thoughts and feelings in a different way from text, audio and video. Within the app and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content