I Survived the IN10 CMF Consultation (and all i got was this lousy blog post)

At the urging of a colleague, i attended the CMF consultation in the middle of interactiveontario’s IN10 conference. i didn’t take any pictures, but i found this one on Google Image search that roughly foots the bill:

Paint Drying

Behold: paint drying.

Here are some fast facts:

  • CMF, the Canadian Media Fund, is a $350 million dollar chunk of change announced recently by the Minister of Canadian Heritage.
  • The Fund is administered by Telefilm.
  • The CMF is split into two streams: Convergent (which requires a broadcast license to access), and Experimental. The lion’s share of the funding goes to the Convergent stream.
  • The Fund recently went through its first round, with a second round coming up this fall.

The purpose of the consultation, the second such meeting in as many days, was to discuss the results of the first round, and to ask about how the Fund could better meet the needs of its applicants in the next round. This time out, the Convergent stream did not show a huge clamour for interactive content funding; contrastingly, the Experimental stream was hugely over-subscribed.

Cheap, Accurate Data vs. Costly, Fake Data

One of the answers the CMF was hunting for was how to measure “viewership” for online games, sites and activities. They worried that tools like Google Analytics are untrustworthy, because they are fed their information by the first party. They suggested that they lacked the expertise to understand a tracking tool like GA. They wondered whether something like ComScore or Nielsen, being third parties, would be a better option.

i say that despite its faults, Google Analytics is a much better approach. Companies can directly share their GA data by adding profiles to their accounts. Anyone worth his salt can sniff out whether a company is gaming the system by adding too many calls – all of the data is laid bare. Not only that, but it’s free. Compare that with ComScore/Nielsen, which are 1. not free, 2. based on survey samples instead of real data, and 3. comparatively opaque their data collection methods.

Google Analytics

Seriously – is this hard to understand? It’s like Fisher Price built it.

Equity vs. Security

i mentioned at the consultation that the game studios around town were not thrilled with the CMF’s plan to take up to 50% equity in the IP of approved projects. (i used the term “collective freak-out”, which apparently shook up the proceedings … i guess when the entire room is half-asleep, it doesn’t take much) It makes sense for the Fund to want to recoup, but as one of my colleagues points out, there are other ways for them to guarantee royalty payments without having to take actual legal ownership in the project. i’d love for them to look into this.

The Areas of My Expertise

When i thought about it, i wondered if the Convergent portion of the fund had a lacklustre subscription simply because teevee people, in my experience, are resting on their laurels instead of seeking true partnerships with digital media companies. Digital media is so often seen as a component of teevee – as simply a way for teevee people to feebly extend their brand presence online, rather than as a way to really explore and leverage their IP in an exciting, participatory medium. Perhaps the Convergent folks weren’t pursuing the Fund to the degree that the pure Experimental (interactive-only) folks were, because they themselves couldn’t think of great ideas for digital media? i’ve said it before, and i’ll say it again: if you want great teevee, ask teevee people. If teevee people want great interactive content, they need eat a slice of humble pie and recognize that it is a separate industry with its own experts. People born and bred in the interactive industry are best equipped to create great interactive content.

Google Analytics

Is this the last video game you played? Seek help.

To that end, the other part of my long-winded question was this: if i’m a teevee prodco, how to i find interactive companies to partner with? Is there a list somewhere, or … ?

A lot of shrugging and lost looks filled the room. Someone weakly offered “well, you come to conferences like this one, and …” But “NO!”, i countered. The province’s great indie game companies don’t attend these conferences. There are many companies who would make great partners – actual partners, not merely people to execute your half-baked vision – but you don’t know about them, because you’re not in the industry. (Again, let me stress that there are two different industries here – teevee and interactive. One is not a subset of the other.) It left me with the sense that we could really use a nation-wide directory, or some kind of speed dating service kind of like Game Connection, except closer to home (and without the four thousand dollar price tag).

Google Analytics

(i also wouldn’t mind ditching the creepy-ass logo)

In Summary?

Anyway, those are my thoughts – scattershot as they are. i didn’t apply for the first round of funding, and i won’t apply as long as the over-reaching equity requirement is in place. i know i’m not alone in that.

If you’re a prodco looking to partner (truly partner) with an interactive agency, give me a call! There are many of us, and if Untold Entertainment isn’t a good fit, i’m very glad to introduce you to one of the many other fantastic studios here in town.

6 thoughts on “I Survived the IN10 CMF Consultation (and all i got was this lousy blog post)

  1. cartoondutchie

    the convergent doesn’t have the same demand as the experimental because the broadcasters control it. so as a TV producer, the broadcaster will greenlight my TV show, allocate some of its CMF envelope to the show, and then offer up a license to the interactive rights, and allocate more of its CMF envelop to the project.

    so technically, no one ever sees any “over-subscription” of the convergent envelope because the broadcasters are the gatekeepers. As a convergent producer on the idm side, trust me, this brings its own share of headaches that *almost* makes me long for the days that tv financing was more competitive and run like the experimental envelope…

    one clarification: the 50% equity stake the CMF takes in your project is only if they put in 50% or more of the financing into your project. if they only put in 20%, they only request a 20% share of each dollar of revenue. and their equity stake doesn’t give them any controlling interest – you as the creator still have the right to exploit your project as you see fit.

    and you’re welcome for being urged – very glad you came!! the indie studios don’t usually have a voice at these things, very important for someone to come in and rep the gang! funding is not good to the sector if it doesn’t help companies make their projects. But sadly, can’t be shaped unless those it is designed to serve can speak up.

    Should also mention that it was announced at the consultation that in the coming weeks, the CMF will open up a website where they will openly invite commentary and input about the Fund, which may help get more voices to the table who can’t spare the 3 hours out of the office for a long consultation session. :)

    Reply
    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      Thanks again, Sasha! i was careful to say that they take “up to” 50%. You’re right – they’ll take a percentage of equity comparable to the amount they fund, capped at half.

      You say that they have no controlling interest, but the way i hear it from our other colleague i mentioned, they do. The CMF could have 50%, or they could have 1% interest – apparently it doesn’t matter. You have to consult them regardless, if you want to do anything with the project. He’s a lawyer, so chances are he knows what he’s talking about.

      Reply
  2. dendritejungle

    “It left me with the sense that we could really use a nation-wide directory, or some kind of speed dating service kind of like Game Connection, except closer to home (and without the four thousand dollar price tag).”

    This strikes me, a lowly observer, as a really good idea – and fairly doable at reasonable expense. Remind me about this the next time we get together and we can throw the idea around.

    Reply
  3. Rob Anderson

    Ryan, I wish I had the chance to stick around for part of this conference.
    It think it is a fantastic idea, creating some sort of database of indie studios. Would the IGDA help with that in some way?
    The two types of funding streams that the CMF are trying out leave me frustrated in so many ways. I agree that there is much room to grow and understand the differences on both sides.
    We still exist in a funding system that is largely controlled by the broadcasters, as Sasha mentioned.
    Take a look at the types of projects that got the convergent funding as opposed to the types that got the experimental. That alone tells us something is wrong.

    Reply
    1. Ryan Henson Creighton

      The power struggle between the very large, established teevee/broadcast industry and the very small (in Canada) interactive industry is becoming increasingly evident. i call it a “power struggle”, but it’s really not a struggle at all: broadcasters have the power, and that’s the end of it.

      Reply
      1. Bwakathaboom

        Canadian broadcast, or film for that matter, wouldn’t exist without massive government subsidizing. We can talk about the reasons (*cough* lack of compelling product *cough*) but that core fact that nothing happens without a government cheque is why I find the attitude so insulting. I’m not the one perpetually on welfare!!

        Reply

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