10 big numbers (and one chart) on the size of Canada’s media economy

Last month, the Canadian Media Concentration Research Project released its annual in-depth reports on the growth (and decline) of Canada’s network media economy, and the degree to which the industry has become more or less concentrated.

Led by Dwayne Winseck, a professor at Carleton University’s school of journalism and communication, the academic research provides an ”empirical and data-driven analysis” of Canada’s telecom, media, and internet markets—the communications ecosystem that supports and delivers all of the country’s marketing—to the end of 2021.

The first of the two reports focuses on growth in the media economy, while the second is dedicated to media and internet concentration since 1984. The report authors are particularly interested in the concentration question, believing it “opens a vista onto a much larger array of issues concerning markets, communication, the free press, the human condition and democracy.”

Increasing media power and concentration, and possible regulatory responses, have become an important concern around the world. “Take, for example, the fact that communications carriers’ ability to set prices and data allowances for mobile wireless and Internet access services has a significant influence on how people communicate with one another,” write the authors. “To our mind, the ability to influence how much—or how little—people can communicate with one another is a concern of the highest order.”

The researchers go deep into all aspects of the media economy (254 pages deep across the two reports, to be precise) and, for economics wonks, use concentration ratios (the CR4) and the Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (HHI) to assess the concentration levels.

In short, they conclude that Canada’s media economy is highly concentrated, and recommend that the Liberal government “double-down on efforts to promote more competitive markets across the board.” That aside, the reports also provide data on almost all aspects of media in Canada that are so closely tied to all aspects of marketing today. Here are just 10 of the big numbers we found most interesting.

  1. $94.6 billion: Total revenue across Canada’s entire network media economy in 2021, up from $89 billion the two years before. The network media economy includes telecoms and internet infrastructure (wireline and wireless telecoms, ISPs and BDUs), digital and traditional publishing (from broadcast and streaming TV to newspapers and magazines) and internet-based companies (online advertising, search, social platforms etc.);
  2. 69%: Total network media economy revenue going to Canada’s big six media companies: Bell, Telus, Rogers, Shaw, Quebecor, and CBC. (The wireless sector is even more concentrated with just three players—Rogers, Bell and Telus—accounting for 89.2% of all revenue.)
  3. 66.2%: Household subscriber levels for broadcast TV (including cable, IPTV and satellite), down from 69% in 2020 and the 86% high-water mark a decade ago. Revenue fell to $7.8 billion, down from $8.1 billion in 2020.
  4. $3.5 billion: Total revenue for “subscription and download-based online video services,” up from $2.7 billion in 2020. Netflix accounted for $1.34 billion, and was present in just over 50% of Canadian homes at the end of 2021.
  5. $9.9 billion: Total revenue for all TV programming services in Canada. Bell led the pack with just over 25% ($2.5 billion), followed by Netflix (13.1%), the CBC (12.5%), Rogers (11.9%), and Shaw/Corus (11.4%).
  6. $9.1 billion: Total film and television production spending, down from $9.5 billion in 2020. Film and TV production was “slammed” by COVID in early 2020, the report states, and while much of the foreign investment( ie. Hollywood and the streaming studios) returned, total spend in 2021 was down because of “a steep drop in investment from domestic sources.”
  7. $17.8 billion: Total advertising spend in Canada in 2021, up from $14.6 billion in 2020, which the report authors described as “an extraordinary year-over-year increase.” As you’ll see below, it’s not surprising where most of that increase was realized…
  8. $12.6 billion: Total internet advertising revenue, up from $9.6 billion in 2020.
  9. 90%: Share of the total online ad market going to Google, Facebook and Amazon, the latter becoming an increasingly important player in the space. That said, the traditional digital duopoly of Google and Facebook takes about 80% of the total digital ad spend in Canada, and just more than 50% of total ad market.
  10. $465.09: Advertising spend per capita in 2021, an all-time high and a significant surge after the 2020 downturn and years of stagnation following the 2008 financial crisis.

David Brown