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Feb 3, 2021

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PAUSE AND RETHINK: 2021 Canada Media Fund Trend Report

PAUSE AND RETHINK: 2021 Canada Media Fund Trend Report

Montreal and Toronto, February 2, 2021 – The annual CMF Trends Report is eagerly awaited by the most respected screen industry observers. Structured in four thematic sections, Pause and Rethink showcases the key trends to watch out for in 2021. These are the trends most likely to have a significant impact on both our media consumption habits and on the activities of Canadian producers, distributors, and content creators.

The pandemic has redefined the way we consume content and altered the entire content distribution, production, and creation ecosystems. Titled Pause and Rethink, the report details the magnitude of these transformations and explores the trends that will shape the audiovisual landscape in 2021. It goes even further in pointing out how an industry that contributes $12.8 billion to Canada’s GDP ingeniously adopts new technologies, responds to the environmental crisis, and commits to inclusion as a core priority.

“What are the major transformations that we’ve observed, and that have been accelerated by the pandemic? Which ones are permanent? The stories, data, and case studies in the report come from across the country and show how resilient and innovative the Canadian screen industry is. Not only is the report taking stock of where we are today, it contributes to the conversation we are launching with the industry about how we can work together to thrive in an environment marked by profound disruption”, says CMF Chief Strategy Officer Kelly Wilhelm.

“There’s no denying that 2020 was a year of tremendous upheaval, and that the screen industry must get a grasp of everything that’s emerged. Under lockdown, audiences have massively turned to digital content for relief. The streaming wars have intensified, and strategies to better position Canadian content in the fray have become more sophisticated,” says CMF Director of Industry and Market Trends Catherine Mathys. “The audiovisual industry has been digitizing at warp speed, integrating new technologies as soon as they become available to ensure on-set safety in particular, while seeking to reduce its significant environmental footprint. The industry also seems to be finally reckoning with calls for change from under-represented communities as audiences hunger more than ever for content they can relate to on screen.”

Trends on the CMF radar include:

  • Traditional niche content and platforms (like Twitch) that are opening up more to the general public to get everyone’s attention as the steaming wars rage on;
  • Theatres are looking at reinventing themselves through new partnerships and event-based approaches in a bid to win back audience during lockdown;
  • Further pandemic-induced experimentation with new pricing models for traditional streaming services;
  • The democratization of metaverses through virtual and augmented reality;
  • The increased importance of intimacy coordinators on film sets during the pandemic;
  • The growing use of virtual production technologies as an eco-friendly alternative, especially in reducing waste and air travel;
  • The progressive integration of environmental best practices to create healthier and more energy-efficient workplaces;
  • The emergence of extended reality as an option for closed entertainment venues during the pandemic;
  • The successes of certain virtual festivals, namely increased sales, and better access for emerging creators and international festivalgoers;
  • Culturally specific content and international markets: navigating markets not familiar with the local Canadian context;
  • Actions and resources needed to increase the participation and inclusion of creators from underrepresented communities and to enable a more inclusive industry.

Pause and Rethink, the 2021 edition of the CMF's annual trends report, is available online at cmf-fmc.ca/now-next/research-reports/pause-and-rethink/

About the Canada Media Fund

The Canada Media Fund (CMF) fosters, promotes, develops, and finances the production of Canadian content and relevant applications for all audiovisual platforms. It also provides guidance to content producers to help them compete in the global digital environment by supporting industry innovation, rewarding success, promoting a diversity of voices, and encouraging access to content through partnerships with industry and the private sector. The CMF is funded by the Government of Canada and by Canadian cable, satellite, and Internet Protocol television (IPTV) distributors.

To learn more please visit cmf-fmc.ca.


Pause and Rethink identifies the transformations, transitions, and innovations that have shaken the screen industry to its very foundation in 2020 and the trends that will impact the industry in 2021.

The CMF Trends Report incorporates statistics related to the development of the Canadian screen industry as well as an analysis of the trends affecting the sector. While the report makes no claim to having answers to all the questions raised in 2020, it will provide a better understanding of today’s issues, no matter how complex they may prove to be.

Pause and Rethink represents the work of a diverse team of writers, illustrators, and industry experts from across Canada.


Chapter 1: Captive audience

Life was radically changed in 2020 and our daily routines will never be the same. Our media consumption habits have adapted to lockdown and teleworking. We spent much less time in transit and much more time in front of our screens. Content became our new best friend and we enjoyed it in all its many forms, including comedies, dramas, games, and documentaries.

Are we going to continue subscribing to so many services in our quest for such a wide array of diverse content?

Topics covered in this chapter:

• Teleworking, the urban exodus, virtual meetings, and restructuring daycare and schooling needs 

(In March, close to 40% of Canadians were working at home compared to only 10% in 2018.)

• Changing our behaviour as digital media become more and more pervasive in our daily lives 

(The popularity of eSports exploded during the COVID-19 pandemic: 5.7 million Canadians took part in multiplayer competitions, up 29% from the previous year.)

• The future of viewing films in cinemas

(25% of US households with a high-speed internet access now prefer to stream new releases.)


Chapter 2: Broadcasting and demand booming

Consuming content after content to fill new free time or how the pandemic has created a more captive audience than ever before.

How do creators, distributors, and streaming platforms stand out and make their content known? And what if the pandemic has also changed the way audiences are targeted?

Topics covered in this chapter:

• Micro-targeting to save time and money

(“You have some great content and know what to do with the data. Now we’re talking!” – Fandango Media president Paul Yanover)

• The battle for advertising revenue and public awareness is intensifying

(“People think content is king, but the main battlefield of the war is distribution.” – OUTtv CEO Brad Danks)

• Canadian content carves out a place for itself in the virtual world

(“Even Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently played Among Us on Twitch, where 400,000 spectators were able to follow her live.”)

• The distribution of extended reality works in the middle of a pandemic

(The 15 virtual reality projects presented at the New York 2020 Tribeca Film Festival drew 46,000 online connections, a number far exceeding the capacity of the event’s physical site.)


Chapter 3: The miracle of production resilience

There’s no doubt that 2020 will be remembered as the year when everyone pulled together to ensure that the screen industry ecosystem could survive, or better yet, seize the moment to explore, to experiment, and to do even better. Different sectors reached out to each other, sharing expertise and joining forces so that the dream could be reborn more beautiful and stronger than ever before.

Will this new way of working together be the new normal when the crisis is over?

Topics covered in this chapter:

• Lessons learned from virtual festivals

(“It’s all well and good to give some applause to Zoom and the like, but we humans were meant to get together.” – Marina Mathieu, director)

• International partners and Indigenous culture: navigating the context of Canadian cultural export markets

(“Honestly, the number of micro-aggressions we’ve seen is enormous and shocking, even for me...This has happened to some of our most experienced creators, which is troubling indeed and indicates the deplorable way some industry players approach these issues.” – Indigenous Screen Office executive director Jesse Wente)

• Virtual production can reduce the number of film crews required and that makes shoots safer during COVID-19

(Not only does virtual production eliminate the need for costly – and difficult during the pandemic – travel, but it also makes it easy to re-shoot scenes long after the fact.)

• Rethinking the wasteful processes on sets

(On average, a major production generates 2840 tons of CO2, equivalent to what more than 8700 cars emit for an entire year.)

• Adapting Canadian audio-visual production to continue creating during the pandemic

(Eagle Vision producer Kyle Irving says budgets had to be adjusted upwards by 8% to 10% to meet health standards on productions. “Every time we say ‘cut,’ we have to wait for the actors to put on their masks before we can approach them. What it adds up to is about 20 minutes a day. Enough to require extra shooting days at about $300,000 a pop,” he said.)


Chapter 4: Giving a bigger voice to creators

We rediscovered the essential nature of being creative professionals in 2020. It was a perfect opportunity, when most of the cultural business had ground to a halt, for questioning industry fundamentals, and to cut out what was unnecessary and prioritize the essential. The pandemic, along with simultaneous social movements, has highlighted systemic racism and other forms of discrimination in the screen industry. Now’s the time to break down the barriers that prevent all forms of diversity from expressing themselves.

Topics covered in this chapter:

• CMF equity and inclusion co-leads plan to create opportunities for diverse communities

(“As we realize we all share similar goals,” said Briceño, “it [will become] easier to be more empathetic and act in solidarity, which is the basis of any equity strategy.” – Diego Briceño, CMF Equity and Inclusion strategy co-lead)

• How some Canadian organizations are working towards equity

(“In a world where unique, visionary storytelling is still the centre of our sector, we have to acknowledge that [the success the market is looking for] comes from many different communities.” – Jesse Wente, Indigenous Screen Office Executive Director)

• The evolution of storytelling in interactive media

(“We’re actually telling the actors that they’re the directors, and they can see and experience their role any way they want.” – Brent Friedman, screenwriter and narrative developer)

André Ferreira

For more information:
Senior Communications Manager
Canada Media Fund

Judy Lung
Touchwood PR
VP, Communications & Marketing



Olivier Lapierre
Media Relations Officer
Canada Media Fund