Unscripted: Factual


“What Are You Looking For?”
This is the question we get asked the most. On this page, we’ve tried to answer that question as fully and as clearly as possible. Please take the time to read this information and apply these filters to your creative thinking—this will give you the best shot at a successful pitch.

In our Factual programming at the moment, we're looking for series that are authentic, distinct, character-driven, and have the potential to spark conversation about a topic of national relevance. What does this mean?

Authentic means real moments experienced by real people. Authentic storytelling doesn’t feel fake or constructed, isn’t superficial, and connects with the audience on an emotional level. We want to showcase the best of Canada.

Distinct means that you probably wouldn't see the content on another network. If your idea is in the lifestyle space (decorating, renovation, property, fashion, paranormal/mediums, dating, wedding, marriage, travel, adventure, weight loss, gardening, crafting, DIY, celebrity) you would be more successful pitching one of the specialty channels. Does your show fit perfectly on another network? If so, it’s not for us.

Character-driven means that we want to hear pitches that are about people, not subjects. Keeping Canada Alive is not a report on waiting times, hospital beds, medication, etc.—it’s about the lives of the people who use our health care system every minute of the day. Pitch us a story, pitch us characters, but a pitch that is just about a subject won’t cut it. We need drama, but we’re not about nasty, superficial conflict. The characters in our Unscripted series are engaging, inspiring, resilient, and forward-thinking.

Sparks conversation means that we want Canadians talking about our content, but we also want them talking about the issues and themes raised by that content. Keeping Canada Alive sparked a conversation about our publicly funded healthcare system. Still Standing asks the question—what is happening to Canada’s shrinking small towns? Canada’s Smartest Person is an entertaining way to move the dial on how we measure intelligence. This fall, This Is High School shows us the inner workings of a high school and opens a conversation about education.

When reviewing new proposals, we’ll evaluate how your concept addresses each of those elements. Other important factors to consider:

Do not be earnest. We want entertaining, immersive, captivating content. We don’t want to be earnest or old-fashioned.

Make the audience feel something. Our factual series are not about delivering straight-up information. We deliver emotion and human connection. Create something that will make our audience laugh, cry, gasp and feel proud to be Canadian.

Stay in Canada. We currently have one Unscripted series (Interrupt This Program) that explores the underground arts scene in cities outside Canada—but that’s an exception. We are mostly looking for concepts set in Canada.

It’s crowded out there. Drawing eyeballs to new content is no small feat in this crowded media landscape. What unique hook does your series have? What’s the wow factor that’s going to generate buzz and compel the audience to watch?

Diversity is key. CBC continues to invest in diversity both behind the scenes and in front of the camera. This means introducing new perspectives, voices, and topics of conversation, and talent that’s as ethnically, culturally and geographically diverse as the audiences we serve. We encourage all producers to embed diversity of view, subject and approach in your proposals.

Why is the public broadcaster the right partner for this series? This is a big question that we ask of each incoming pitch. Where is the public value in your concept? Why is CBC the best platform to tell your story? This links back to the point above regarding distinct content—a docuseries set in a cupcake shop, or a tattoo removal competition might be perfect for a specialty network, but would be lacking that layer of value that is essential for CBC.

Nitty gritty:

  • We prefer series over one-offs and specials
  • We generally commission between 4 and 14 episodes depending on concepts and schedule availability
  • Episodes can be an hour or half hour in length
  • Our series air in prime time between 8:00pm and 10:00pm
  • Our target audience is 25-54 years old

Our Current Shows

  • STILL STANDING: (New season starts June 2016) An irreverent and affectionate adventure through small-town Canada and a celebration of the people who live there. It follows Jonny Harris as he visits struggling small towns, immersing himself in the lives of local residents and mining enough material to put on an original stand-up comedy routine for the locals.
  • HELLO GOODBYE: (New season starts Fall 2016) In this series, a host draws out emotional stories from people in a vibrant Canadian airport. It reveals themes of love, family bonds, friendships, immigration, grief and joyful reunion. HELLO GOODBYE presents a window into our most emotional moments.
  • DRAGONS' DEN: (New season starts Fall 2016) A panel of self-made millionaires invest in business ideas pitched by entrepreneurs.
  • KEEPING CANADA ALIVE: (Aired Fall 2015) In this highly ambitious and compelling series, 60 cameras across the country filmed a single day in the life of our healthcare system, capturing all aspects of it from coast to coast. Told entirely through the personal stories of patients and healthcare professionals, in unprecedented breadth, the series provides a look at what our healthcare system does in 24 hours.
  • CANADA'S SMARTEST PERSON: (New season starts Winter 2016) An original competition series that inspires and entertains Canadians. Each week, four participants go head-to-head in a series of mind-bending challenges based on the Theory of Multiple Intelligence, which explores six areas of "smarts" including linguistic, physical, musical, visual, social and logical.
  • THIS IS HIGH SCHOOL: (Premieres Fall 2016) An intense, surprising and intimate docuseries that, for the first time, looks deep into the incredible dynamic existing today between students and their teachers at a typical Canadian high school. Based on the award-winning UK format, THIS IS HIGH SCHOOL offers unprecedented access into teenage life at South Kamloops Secondary School in Kamloops, BC.
  • TRUE NORTH CALLING: (Premieres Winter 2017) TRUE NORTH CALLING will reveal the north to audiences in an entirely new, modern and surprising way. The series follows one season in the lives of several young, dynamic Arctic dwellers carving out a life for themselves and their families on the frozen tundra. We follow the daily dramas of making a living in Canada's most spectacular and treacherous environment.

How To Work With Us

We encourage producers to begin by familiarizing yourselves with our shows. Watch CBC on TV or online. Review our schedule online. Set up a Google Alert so you can be notified when we greenlight a new show, or there’s an article in the press about our programming.

One-page pitches should be sent to the contact below, along with a signed copy of the CBC's Submission Release Form which can be downloaded from this website. If you have any video to support your pitch (ie: host or talent tape, short teaser, etc.) you may include links in your email.

All proposals are reviewed by the commissioning team on a regular basis. If there is interest in a project, you will be contacted for further discussion and refinement of the program proposal.

If the Network is interested in the concept, we embark on a phase of development, the deliverables of which are agreed upon by the producer and the CBC. Development funding is determined by the deliverables.

The Factual team also works closely with the CBC Arts team—see their commissioning page here.

CBC Submission Release Form

Materials will not be reviewed unless accompanied by a signed CBC Submission Release Form, downloadable here: Submission Release Form (PDF)
All submissions should contain the subject line “Unscripted/Factual” or “Unscripted/Arts” (depending on your concept) followed by the title of your proposal. We will respond to all submissions within 4–6 weeks of receiving a signed CBC Submission Release Form. We cannot return materials submitted.

Contact Information

Mélanie Lê Phan
Development Coordinator, CBC Factual Entertainment
email: factualpitch@cbc.ca



CBC Television Online

Watch videos online of your favourite CBC-TV programs, news, sports and much more

Also on CBC