One in a series of articles about the recently concluded EBU Digital Radio Summit.
Canada’s public radio and television services have gone from being broadcast-only platforms to distributors of a substantial amount of live and on-demand content in cyberspace.
CBC Listen is the home for the CBC’s online audio content, while CBC Gem hosts the TV content. CBC.ca is the overarching structure for all things digital at CBC/Radio-Canada.
During the online EBU Digital Radio Summit held on Feb. 16, 2022, CBC’s Julie McCambley and Kevin Siu explained how Canada’s public broadcaster produces and serves programming and podcasts in a session entitled, “What to do with all of that content?”
McCambley is senior manager of planning & operations for CBC Listen, and Siu is CBC’s senior director of OTT video & audio for CBC Gem & CBC Listen.
From on air to on demand
Every week, CBC Radio produces and broadcasts 70 live local shows across the country for Radio One, its spoken word service. This content is broadcast on the CBC’s FM service, made available live on CBC Listen, and also provided to some third-party broadcasters.
CBC Radio’s local on-air content is a natural resource for after-the-fact, on-demand listening. This being said, “what we’ve learned from experience is not to publish on-demand versions of an entire show when it comes to local,” McCambly said.
Instead, the real value for listeners lies in selecting, posting, and promoting specific interviews and other show segments as standalone content. “That means local segments make up a significant portion of what we call our on-demand listening offer,” she said.
On average, each local show produces two segments per day for CBC Listen.
“Once the show has gone to air, the technician who operated the show will work with the digital producer to identify segments that they want to upload to CBC Listen,” said McCambly. “Then they’ll repackage those segments to make sure that they are clean from a ‘rights’ perspective, and then they’ll publish them into CBC Listen. They’ll also make a version that’s available for third parties.”
For the hour of work it takes to repackage two local segments for on-demand listening, CBC Listen (and sometimes CBC.ca too) gets content that will attract listeners for about a week, McCambly said.
A similar process is used to repackage network-produced on-air content for the web, after it has been broadcast in all of Canada’s six time zones.
In addition to repurposing broadcast content for the web, CBC Radio also produces a special web-only version of the national newscast “The World This Hour” and a variety of podcasts.
So the CBC has 94 podcasts available for on-demand listening. The topics they cover include range from true crime and human interest stories to investigative reporting, history, and more. Some CBC podcasts are original productions, while others are repurposed from CBC Radio programs.
Under Canadian law, CBC Radio isn’t allowed to make money from advertising. But its online platforms can. “We do monetize our podcasts,” said McCambly. “We monetize them by making a pre-roll and mid-roll available for advertising.”
With so much online content on offer, CBC Radio’s goal moving forward is to raise awareness of its content and give more people access to it.
Achieving these goals means answering questions such as “how do we improve the discoverability?” said Kevin Siu, and “how do we streamline our technical infrastructure … to allow us to move more quickly?”
In response to the first question, CBC Radio is launching a free membership platform for CBC Listen users to boost their use of CBC online content.
“One of the benefits that we see for users is to be able to get access to either exclusive content or to content early on,” Siu said. In the crowded world of cyber streaming, any tactic that boosts listener loyalty is a plus.
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James Careless is an award-winning freelance journalist with experience in radio/TV broadcasting as well as A/V equipment, system design and integration. He has written for Radio World, TV Tech, Systems Contractor News and AV Technology among others. Broadcast credits include CBC Radio, NPR and NBC News. He co-produces/co-hosts the “CDR Radio podcast” and is a two-time winner of the PBI Media Award for Excellence.