Toronto – Canadian produced and co-produced historical dramas, most notably Vikings, The Borgias and Pillars of the Earth, are sold in markets around the world and perform well in Canada as well as internationally. Figures from Eurodata TV Worldwide, which analyses and distributes programming and audience information, indicate that international audiences turn their attention to historical dramas produced by Canadians during prime time hours.
“Canadian content continues to connect with audiences, both at home and abroad,” said Valerie Creighton, President and CEO, Canada Media Fund. “It stands shoulder to shoulder with other productions and the world is turning its eye on Canada for its ability to tell compelling stories about our past. We remain committed to working with content creators to support captivating content and promote our industry to the world at events.”
Carolle Brabant, Telefilm Canada’s Executive Director, added, “It’s clear that our country has the talent to tell compelling stories that touch audiences around the world. Promotion and marketing on all platforms hold the key to increasing the reach of our product. Every time homegrown content is shown on the big screen, broadcast on television or made available on digital platforms, we have incredible opportunities to promote Canadian creativity, not only at home but abroad as well.”
Historical dramas on the international stage
Directed by Clement Virgo and produced by Damon D’Oliveira, The Book of Negroes is based on the internationally acclaimed novel by Canadian author Lawrence Hill. The six-part miniseries is co-produced by Conquering Lion Pictures (Canada) and Out of Africa Entertainment (South Africa). It recounts the story of an African woman named Aminata Diallo who is kidnapped from Africa and sold into slavery in the southern U.S. She later makes her way to Halifax and back to Africa and finally, to England at the turn of the 19th century. The cast includes Aunjanue Ellis, two Oscar winners Louis Gossett, Jr. and Cuba Gooding, Jr., as well as Jane Alexander and Ben Chaplin
Murdoch Mysteries (Shaftesbury) is celebrating its 100th episode in 2014. Set in turn-of-the-20th-century Toronto, the series consistently stands out as the highest rated drama on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) with an average audience of 1,238,000 in 2012-2013. Audiences across 110 countries including China, France, the United Kingdom, and the USA enjoy watching the adventures of Murdoch, a handsome young detective using radical forensic techniques for the time to solve some of Toronto’s most gruesome murders.
Set in the 1950s, Le Berceau des anges portrays the sale of illegitimate babies to Jewish New York families at the height of the baby boom phenomenon and when adoption laws in the United States were strict. Directed by Ricardo Trogi, the miniseries airing on Séries+ as of January 2015 includes the following cast: Marianne Fortier, Sébastien Delorme, Isabelle Roy, Gildor Roy and Ève Duranceau.
Historical dramas not a thing of the past
Canada has a solid track record of productions that are acquired by different territories and appeal to wide audiences.
In two short years, Vikings, a coproduction between Canada and Ireland, captured the attention of audiences from over 40 countries including Australia, Iceland, and Finland. Broadcast on the History Channel in the USA, the first season of Vikings obtained an average audience market share of 5.3% compared to the network’s average 1.8%. In Finland, the series’ average audience market share in the coveted 25-44 age category was 97% above the average for the network.
There are other recent examples of Canadian successes that are still broadcast in countries around the globe.
The Borgias, a Hungary, Ireland, and Canada coproduction, attained an average audience market share of 52% above D8’s (broadcaster) regular line-up in France. In addition to captivating a dedicated French audience, the show has also been sold to more than 45 countries including China, Japan, and New Zealand. Over the years, the series has garnered three Emmys as well as numerous Canadian Screen Awards.
The Canada Germany coproduction, Pillars of the Earth, gained a strong audience base in Germany as well as Spain. With an average audience of close to 7 million in Germany, and 4 million in Spain, the miniseries performed with an average audience market share of 20.7% compared to 7.6% for SAT.1 (broadcaster) in Germany. The miniseries won an Emmy and three Geminis (now the Canadian Screen Awards).
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