Nfld. & Labrador

Netflix and next opportunities in Newfoundland and Labrador

What might be our slice of the $500-million federal government/Netflix agreement for Canadian productions, here in Newfoundland and Labrador?

Streaming giant is 'biggest broadcaster in the world,' says executive director of N.L. Film Development Corp.

Netflix is streaming the dramatic series Frontier, which is shot in N.L. and is a partner in the series. (Newswire)

What might be our slice of the $500-million federal government/Netflix agreement for Canadian productions, here in Newfoundland and Labrador?

Dorian Rowe, the executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation, says the details need to be ironed out, but he's heralding the announcement as a good start for the $7-billion Canadian industry that generates 150,000 direct and indirect jobs.

Rowe chatted recently with Krissy Holmes of the St. John's Morning Show about entertainment cash, staying competitive and the post-Republic of Doyle entertainment scene in the province. 

The $500 million — some would argue that's a drop in a bucket compared to even what traditional broadcasters have to pay out.

ROWE: I wouldn't call it a drop in the bucket. The Canada Media Fund is $300-million something for English and French so it's a big number … But in terms of Newfoundland and Labrador, as you know the Frontier series, Netflix is one of the partners in that. And we know of many, many productions across Canada that involve Netflix, so — I don't have a number on that — but they are a huge component of the overall production landscape in the country. They are the biggest broadcaster in the world, I guess you could say. 

Dorian Rowe, the executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation, says production dollars are 'very strong.' (Paula Gale/CBC)

Speaking of the production landscape, can you give us a sense of how we are doing here in this province, in the post-Republic of Doyle world? 

ROWE: The fear after Doyle was, 'Well, do we fall off the cliff?' You know, does the production revenue, or production activity drop off? And it didn't. So we had a really good year last year and this year, currently —  we don't have final numbers yet because we're only about six months in — but this may be the best year ever. We're running about $40 to $50 million a year annually in production activity, which, for a population of 500,000 is pretty good, I think.

So keeping that momentum going, are we competitive enough as a production industry here in this province?

ROWE: We are a Crown corporation so we've been discussing that with government — I mean, there's nothing I can say now — but you know, we're working towards tweaking things. You could always be more competitive. I think when our tax credit first came in, it was sort of the most competitive in the country. It probably isn't anymore, but that doesn't mean we're not competitive overall. It's a challenge — we're on an island in the Atlantic Ocean, and although our geography is very attractive, there are challenges and costs associated with that.

Heritage Minister Melanie Joly has said the $500 million allocated for Canada is just a minimum and that Netflix could end up spending more. (Reuters/Canadian Press)

And the economic runoff in this province is huge — are you able to put a number on that?

ROWE: We've seen on average over the years that 70 to 80 per cent of the cost of a project is outside money that comes in. So you know, you put in a dollar and you get three back … So for us, that's huge because that's new money that's coming in … It's not money that's going to fill potholes with or build a school with. It's money that's in the film and television industry. So if we don't lure it in, it goes to Quebec or Alberta or Romania or somewhere else. So that's the attraction of it, it's new money brought in. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

With files from St. John's Morning Show

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