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. Authentic doesn’t mean boring! We need drama, but we’re not about nasty, superficial conflict. Even in a competition format, like The Great Canadian Baking Show, the audience will experience and learn about Canada through food - ties to culture, community, identity and universal moments we can all relate to. It celebrates the joy of baking without any back-stabbing.

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, 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. Pitch us a story, pitch us characters, but a pitch that is just about a subject won’t cut it. The characters in our Unscripted series are engaging, inspiring, resilient, forward-thinking and representative of modern Canadian life.

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. Canada’s Smartest Person used entertaining gameplay as a way to move the dial on how we measure intelligence. Dragons’ Den has changed the national conversation about entrepreneurs and small business.

In addition to all the Factual content we commission, we are specifically on the hunt for:

  • prime time series with potential for longer runs (10 eps +) and multiple seasons
  • can be studio or field based
  • tone: entertaining, escapist, fun, family friendly
  • must have broad appeal for the Canadian audience
  • must have some element of added value for public broadcaster inherent in the concept
  • hour-long episodes (44mins)

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. What is modern and exciting about your concept?

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.  The Detectives reveals the humanity of real Canadian detectives, and the emotional strain of the job. Still Standing uses comedy to ask the question: what is happening to Canada’s shrinking small towns?

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 that are set in Canada and that have broad appeal for all our citizens.

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 added 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

Fall 2017:

  • THE STATS OF LIFE: (New) According to Statistics Canada, the average Canadian family is a white, 40-year old married couple with two children, living in a 3 bedroom house. But as we all know, numbers don't tell the real story of how we, as Canadians, live. The Stats of Life is an entertaining, fact-filled, graphic-packed format that drills down on a range of population statistics, to reveal the surprising truths about the family next door, giving unique insight into who we are as a nation.
  • THE GREAT CANADIAN BAKING SHOW: (New) The Great British Bake Off comes to Canada! This popular series brings together 10 amateur bakers from across Canada to compete in a series of themed culinary challenges. In every episode, they'll face three nail-biting rounds: the Signature Bake, the Technical Bake and the Show Stopper. Each week, the competitor who shows the most skill, creativity and finesse will be named Star Baker, while the weakest will be sent home until only three finalists are left vying for the Great Canadian Baking Show title.
  • DRAGONS' DEN: (Returning) A panel of self-made millionaires invest in business ideas pitched by entrepreneurs. This season brings extra drama as legendary Dragon, Arlene Dickinson, returns to the Den.
  • INTERRUPT THIS PROGRAM: (Returning) Interrupt This Program uncovers the underground arts scenes in cities that have experienced major traumas: natural disasters, long-term war, political unrest or economic meltdown. This series documents the creative underbellies of five unique cities, each facing its own set of challenges.

Winter 2018:

  • THE DETECTIVES: (New) The Detectives is a gripping true crime series that brings to life the work of real detectives by blending first person interviews with fully scripted drama. Every episode features a different detective reliving the investigation that not only challenged them like no other, but also had a residual impact on an aspect of Canadian life and law enforcement. In combining intimate, raw interviews with the real detectives and meticulously crafted drama, the series provides an eye opening look at law enforcement and violent crime in Canada.
  • HELLO GOODBYE: (Returning) 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.

Highlights from last season:

  • STILL STANDING: 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.
  • TRUE NORTH CALLING: True North Calling revealed the north to audiences in an entirely new, modern and surprising way. The series followed one season in the lives of several young, dynamic Northern dwellers carving out a life for themselves and their families. They followed daily dramas as each dealt with unforgiving terrain, unpredictable weather, hunting, guiding, fishing and farming, travelling by snowmobile and dog sled, mixing traditional ways with modern technology, while living in Canada’s most spectacular and treacherous environment.
  • KEEPING CANADA SAFE: In each episode of Keeping Canada Safe, viewers will be privy to a dramatic, day-in-the-life snapshot of emergency services across the country including police, firefighters, airport security, Canadian Forces, CSIS agents, grassroots volunteers and more. Over two days, 60 camera crews descended across Canada’s streets, airspace, parks and homes to capture the action-packed and inspiring stories of those working to protect the country, both within and outside its borders. With unparalleled access, more than 47 organizations were filmed at work in 34 different cities across 10 provinces and two territories to create this thorough and immersive program.
  • CANADA’S SMARTEST PERSON: Canada’s Smartest Person is a competitive reality series that uses the Theory of Multiple Intelligence to redefine what it means to be smart. Each week 4 competitors are put to the test in six areas of intelligence …linguistic, physical, musical, visual, social and logical intelligence. For too long, the concept of intelligence has been confined to a limited view of what it means to be smart. Smart, in most cases, has been bestowed upon the fortunate few with a strong aptitude for facts and figures. But there’s much more to the story...By drawing upon the latest research in intelligence, Canada’s Smartest Person shatters the myth that to be smart one needs to have a high IQ or be a whiz in math or trivia.

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 when 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.

For more information on CBC's Business and Rights processes please visit: CBC Business and Rights.

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. Please note that we cannot return materials submitted.

Contact Information

Christian Hamilton
Development Manager, Unscripted Content
email: factualpitch@cbc.ca



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