One of the most influential men on our television is worried about his future, and more broadly, about our culture. In an interview, the current vice-president of original content at Quebecor, Denis Dubois, paints a critical portrait of the environment he will be leaving in nearly a month, after 30 years of loyal service. “I’m worried about several things. I want to wake up the world. »
After our interview, Denis Dubois expressed his concerns on Thursday at the convention of the Quebec Association of Media Productions (AQPM) in Saint-Sauveur. The TV man wanted to have an “honest conversation” about the state of affairs. A speech that he describes as “free”, given his announced departure.
For Denis Dubois, the frantic pace at which Quebec has been producing content for some time is unsustainable. In 2022 alone, the sums invested exceeded 900 million, according to the AQPM. This amount is impressive, but given the increase in the number of programs, budgets continue to decline. In fiction, we are talking about a marked drop of 34% in 10 years, again according to the AQPM.
“We see it in the United States: the big platforms have started to abolish positions. We recently experienced it at Quebecor, ”recalls Denis Dubois. The company announced in February that it was cutting 240 jobs.
“Reality is catching up with us. The private [sector] is going to have it very hard…”
Denis Dubois has worn many hats since his television debut in 1992 with Astral (Canal Famille, Vrak). His career also includes five years as vice-president of the TVA Group’s specialty channels (addikTV, Prize 2, CASA), five years as director of programs at Télé-Québec, and three years as head of original programming for all platforms. of Quebecor, including TVA and Club illico. He smiles thinking back to the early years, but when he talks about the present, his gaze darkens.
“Making fiction series is not profitable. Neither do large variety trays. Broadcasters are losing money. One way to do this is to offer quizzes, films, American series. It’s not something we want, the return of American series dubbed in French in prime time. »
To rebalance the television ecosystem and ensure the survival of private channels like TVA and Noovo, Denis Dubois mentions a measure that comes up cyclically in the media space: Radio-Canada and Télé-Québec should abandon advertising. And to compensate for the loss of advertising revenue, Quebec and Ottawa should increase their financial support.
“The risk taking is on the public broadcasters,” he adds. The private sector will never be able to play this role, because it needs profitability. When your budget depends on advertisements, it affects your programming decisions, because of the market shares that you have to monitor. »
According to Denis Dubois, Radio-Canada should drop the annual series (tele-series), which are less expensive to produce. The state-owned company should leave this niche to the private channels and concentrate its energies – and especially its dollars – on seasonal series (between 6 and 10 episodes) “a little more niche” and “innovative”, so that they evolve our television. He also believes that Désobéir: Chantale Daigle’s choice, currently offered on Crave, should have landed on Radio-Canada, just like The night when Laurier Gaudreault woke up by Xavier Dolan, which can be found on Club illico.
Among the ICI Télé programs that he considers “made for TVA”, he mentions Les petits tannants with Pierre Hébert, who faced Le monde à l’envers by Stéphan Bureau this winter, a television appointment that he considers more Canadian radio. “Véronique Cloutier has the DNA of TVA. It should be at TVA,” he adds.
“A public broadcaster should never compete with the private. He should act in support. »
In general, Denis Dubois’ concerns are in line with those expressed by several participants and speakers at the AQPM convention: shortage of skilled labour, rising production costs, American competition and, above all, desertion of young audiences…
“Not that we’re living on borrowed time, but it’s something that can’t last any longer,” he says. We risk losing a culture that is unique to us, a tone, a sense of humour… We have to react. The government must react. »
To reach young Quebecers and prevent our television from drowning in the abundance of foreign content from American giants such as Netflix, Disney and Prime Video, Denis Dubois suggests the creation of an independent streaming platform, which would bring together all French-language series and programs in one place, instead of being scattered among different services like Club illico, ICI Tou.tv and Crave.
To encourage Quebec broadcasters to feed this common platform, Denis Dubois would give them additional funding in return. It would also establish a performance-based royalty system for shared series. He would offer this platform for free to students aged 25 and under, to capture their attention and to make sure they know their local TV.
It would also strive to provide a user-friendly experience. “We have a lot to learn from Netflix. Subscribing to Club illico and Crave is another obstacle course. It should be simple. »
“We shut down the streets, we premiere the first episodes of new series outside, people meet the actors… There are book fairs, home fairs… Why don’t we have something like that? for our TV? »
“Our problem is that we are not united enough. We have to try to break that. We do not have a choice. We have to work together. We must react now. »
Denis Dubois does not know if his wish will be granted. Since he is retiring from the industry and intends to start “a personal entrepreneurial project”, he will be far from the action if ever his recommendations lead to the slightest change. One thing is certain, according to the reactions observed Thursday at the AQPM convention at the Saint-Sauveur manor, his speech found an echo among professionals in the field who came to listen to him.
” There are solutions. You have to try them. »