Canadian Participation in International Co-Productions and Co-Ventures in Television Programming

Colin Hoskins (University of Alberta)

Stuart McFadyen (University of Alberta)

Abstract: This paper examines the importance of international co-productions/co-ventures to Canadian television program production and the motives of participants in choosing this mode. The objective is to improve our understanding of this competitive strategy in the increasingly global television market emerging as a consequence of the new technologies and trend to de-regulation.

Résumé: Cet article traite de l'importance des coproductions et des coentreprises internationales pour l'industrie canadienne de la télévision et des raisons pour lesquelles les participants choisissent cette approche. Notre objectif est de mieux comprendre cette stratégie qui s'est avérée concurentielle dans le contexte d'un marché télévisuel devenu global en raison de l'émergence de nouvelles technologies et d'une tendance vers la déréglementation.

The average Canadian watches television for about 23 hours a week. As in many other countries the important drama category has been dominated by U.S. imports and there is widespread concern with respect to the influence of these imports on values and attitudes. In recent years a key strategy, adopted in an attempt to compete against U.S. programming, has been the formation of international joint ventures (IJVs). Governments in many countries, including Canada, have encouraged this development through negotiation of international co-production treaties.

Despite the growing importance of the IJV strategy, it has received little attention in the literature in Canada or elsewhere. Notable among work that has been done is Acheson & Maule (1989). They focus on Canadian public policies with respect to co-productions and co-ventures "that have alleviated the constraints of inward looking financing policies for film and programs and domestic content regulation for television." Their paper includes some Canadian data on IJVs up to 1986. Renaud & Litman (1985, p. 254) identify co-productions as "the most effective response strategy to the new economic pressures reshaping the television programming environment, in the USA and abroad" and briefly discuss the advantages of this strategy. Hoskins & McFadyen (1991) consider the implications of the strategy for the sustainability of the U.S. competitive advantage. Some description of British participation has been provided by Collins, Garnham, & Locksley (1988) and Schlesinger (1986).

In this paper we examine the importance of IJVs to Canadian production and the motives of participants in choosing this mode. The objective is to improve our understanding of this competitive strategy in the increasingly global television market emerging as a consequence of the new technologies and trend to de-regulation. We use a broad definition of IJVs to include any business/production arrangement, between partners based in different countries, anywhere on the continuum from completely arm's length to completely internalized. We do not restrict the term to apply only to cases where a separate company is created whose stock is shared by the partners. Indeed, contractually based IJVs are more usual in arrangements for a fixed duration with the explicit intention to dissolve at a specific date (see Beamish & Banks, 1987), an arrangement that is usual in the project-based television program production industry. In addition, Harrigan (1988, p. 152) notes, in an observation relevant to the case of television program production, that "fewer shared-equity ventures will be used where the key assets needed for success are human resources, and if formed such ventures will be more autonomous."

In the first section we provide background by describing the different types of IJV; official international co-productions, international co-ventures, and twinning packages. In the second section we present data on the extent and importance of Canadian IJV participation and describe the characteristics of official co-production projects, 1983-91, in terms of country of partner, language of production, category and format of programming, and size of budget. In the third section we examine the motives for forming an IJV in terms of the benefits and drawbacks enumerated in the international business literature. In the fourth section we present evidence on the motives of participants in television program IJVs.

Types of Television IJV: Official Co-Productions,
Co-Ventures, and Twinning Packages

Official Co-Productions

Canada has official co-production agreements with 24 countries; these treaties invariably encompass feature films as well as television programs. The key principles governing these co-production agreements (detailed in Table 1) are that the minimum Canadian budget participation be 15% to 30% of the total (it varies with the agreement); that the creative and technical contribution be in proportion to the financial participation of each co-producer and/or some minimum manning level; that both producers retain revenues from their own national market while revenues from the rest of the world are normally shared in proportion to the partners' investments; that one foreign star be permitted if both partners approve; and, in most cases, participation of a third country is permitted although sometimes only if the country of at least one partner has a treaty with that third country. For each agreement it is expected that over time all creative, technical, and financial contributions will be balanced. 2

Official co-productions are recognized as national productions for both partners. In Canada they qualify as Canadian content for quota purposes (Canadian TV broadcasters are required to schedule at least 50% Canadian content) and are eligible for investment from Telefilm Canada (usually as a percentage of the Canadian budget contribution only) and the provincial government funding agencies, while Canadian private investors are eligible for tax incentives.


IJVs that are not undertaken under the auspices of a co-production agreement are known as "co-ventures." To qualify as a domestic Canadian production for quota purposes the co-venture must meet the same points (6 out of a possible 10 in terms of key creative positions filled by Canadians) and expenditure requirements as domestic productions (except for those with Commonwealth or francophone countries which are a little less stringent) and have not less than an equal decision-making responsibility for all creative elements. Thus it is considerably more difficult for a co-venture (than a co-production) to qualify as a domestic production for quota purposes. In addition, Canadian investors are not eligible for a tax deduction. However, financial assistance from Telefilm Canada can be applied for. All IJVs with countries with which there is no treaty (notably the U.S.) are co-ventures. Even where there is a co-production agreement, some IJVs will not be made under its auspices.

Twinning Packages

Twinning is a special production package that pairs two distinct projects, one of which may from a creative standpoint be fully Canadian and the other entirely foreign. The twins must be of the same program category, approximately equal budget and duration, and must receive equitable scheduling on the same Canadian station or network. The Canadian producer is required to have an equity interest and profit participation in both productions but this financial participation may be its only contribution to the "other" project. The package as a whole is classified as domestic if, on an overall average, it satisfies the same requirements as co-ventures. The package may be undertaken under the auspices of a treaty, and hence be an official co-production, or may be a co-venture.

Data on Canada's Television IJV Participation, 1983-91

The importance of IJVs to television program production in recent years can be gauged from information based on Telefilm Canada Annual Reports 1985-86 to 1990-91. Throughout this period, the total budget of official co-productions (including the contributions of foreign partners) as a proportion of the total budget for all projects with Telefilm Canada funding ranged between 21% and 38% (excluding foreign contributions, the range would be a little over half of this). Data for the single year available, 1985-86, suggest that the total budget for co-ventures is similar to that for official co-productions. In 1985-86, of a total budget of $204 million on projects with Telefilm Canada participation, the budget for co-productions was $68 million and co-ventures $67.3 million--together they account for 66% of the total budget. Telefilm estimates that about 40% of projects do not come to them for funding.

The remainder of this section describes the Canadian experience with international co-productions. It is important to note that the data only covers official treaty co-production. It does not include international co-ventures, many of which would be with the U.S.

Table 2 Television Co-Productions by Country, 1983-91 (1986 $ millions)
All projects
France U.K. Other Total
Number of projects 40 9 12 61
Total budget 251 23 51 325
Average project budget 6.27 2.56 4.28 5.33
Budget-per-hour 1.04 .77 .67 .94
Canadian budget share 53% 34% 56% 52%
Table derived from project information provided to the authors in November 1992 by Telefilm Canada. Data relates to projects completed by this date.

As Table 2 indicates, 61 television international co-productions were undertaken during 1983-91 and completed by November 1992. France was much the most important co-production partner with 40 of these projects, distantly followed by the U.K. with 9 projects. In 1986 dollars, the total budget for co-productions was $325 million which is $5,330,000 per project or $940,000 per hour of programming produced.

The projects with France involved a bigger average project budget of $6,270,000 compared to $2,560,000 for the U.K. and $4,280,000 for other countries. A project budget, however, reflects the hours of programming produced as well as production quality indicated by budget-per-hour of programming produced. The average budget-per-hour is $1,040,000 for projects with France, $770,000 for projects with the U.K., and $670,000 with other countries. These budget figures are large. As a point of comparison, the average budget-per-hour for all Telefilm projects (including co-productions) 1986-87 to 1990-91 was around $362,000 in 1986 dollars. Thus the average budget-per-hour for co-productions is 2.6 times greater than that of all projects, those with France being particularly high budget.

Table 3 Television Co-Productions by Language, 1983-91 (1986 $ millions)
English-language with
French/ Double-
France U.K. Other Total language shot Animation
Number of projects 13 9 9 31 17 5 8
Total budget 113 23 38 174 63 44 44
Average project 8.67 2.56 4.22 5.61 3.72 8.88 5.50
Budget-per-hour 1.18 .77 .64 .94 .97 1.18 .74
Canadian budget 65% 34% 54% 59% 46% 39% 48%
Table derived from project information provided to the authors by Telefilm Canada.

Table 3 provides a breakdown by language and, for English-language projects, by country. It shows 31 projects shot originally in English, 17 in French, 5 double-shot in English and French and 8 animation (where multiple sound-tracks can be added after production). English-language productions with France have been important. Although French-language productions (all but one of which are with France) outnumber English-language projects with France, 17 to 13, the total budget of $113 million for English-language projects with France is nearly double that of $63 million for all French-language productions. The average project budget is more than twice as big and the budget-per-hour $1.18 million compared to $0.97 million. In contrast, the English-language productions with the U.K. and with other countries have average project budgets similar to the French-language projects while their budget-per-hour is actually less.

At a meeting of the Joint France-Canada Commission held in September 1990 "members...expressed concern about the increase in English- language co-productions between the two counties and stressed that the primary goal of France-Canada agreements is to encourage the making of French-language productions" (Telefilm Canada Annual Report 1990-91, p. 10). Soon after this meeting, Telefilm introduced incentives to promote French-language co-productions with France by relaxing the funding criteria for these projects.

English-French double-shoots, all with France, have similar large budgets to the English-language projects with France. Animation projects, six out of eight being with France, have project budgets of about average size while their budget-per-hour is less than average.

Table 4 Television Co-Productions by Program Category and Format, 1983-91 (1986 $ millions)
Program Category Program Formatb
Drama Children's mentary Single Mini-series Series
Number of projectsa 37 8 12 16 20 25
Total budget 252 47 20 15 112 198
Average project 6.80 5.90 1.70 .95 5.58 7.93
Budget per hour 1.05 .75 .62 .92 1.29 .81
Canadian budget 54% 52% 40% 52% 41% 58%
The number of projects classified by program category is 57, while all 61 are classified according to format.
The definition used to delineate format are single has one episode, a mini-series has two to eight episodes, and a series has nine or more episodes.
Table derived from project information provided to the authors by Telefilm Canada.

The analysis by program format, Table 4, reveals that of the 61 co-productions 16 were single-episode, 20 mini-series and 25 series. The big budget-per-hour projects were the mini-series at $1.29 million per hour compared to $0.92 million for single-episode and $0.81 million for series. Analysis by program category indicates a pre-ponderance of drama. Drama had a higher budget-per-hour at $1.05 million than children's programming at $0.75 million, or documentaries at $0.62 million.

Benefits and Drawbacks of IJV Mode:
A Theoretical Examination

The international joint venture mode has both advantages (benefits) and disadvantages (drawbacks) and will only be selected if each partner anticipates a net benefit over the best alternative mode. Different benefits may accrue to the various partners since the rationale for the IJV may be a pooling of complementary resources with each partner contributing a comparative advantage in a particular area.

The following potential benefits and drawbacks have been identified from the international business literature (see, for example, Contractor & Lorange, 1988) and adapted for television program production. They are discussed relative to the most frequently employed alternative, namely, a go-it-alone production. However, we also note the extent to which they apply to other modes such as domestic joint venture and arm's length service agreements.

Potential Benefits

1. Pooling of financial resources
Increasingly producers are unable to raise the funds necessary for a "world-class production" from the domestic market. An IJV may permit this through financial contributions from foreign partner(s). Even if the IJV only involves a budget contribution in the form of a pre-sale to a foreign broadcaster or distributor (for which the broadcaster or distributor will likely insist on some influence on content) this is much more effective than a post-production foreign sale. The latter cannot be part of the production budget and typically involves a much smaller amount. Our hypothesis is that this is an important benefit for large budget projects which would be difficult to finance otherwise. Domestic joint ventures also pool financial resources but less effectively.
2. Access to foreign government's incentives and subsidies
If a project is structured so that it counts as domestic content in the market of each partner, it will be eligible for foreign as well as domestic government subsidies and perhaps tax incentives. As we have seen, official co- production agreements facilitate this.
3. Access to partner's market
Increased access is likely to occur for several reasons. First, the foreign partner is likely to have better knowledge regarding the distribution process in his/her domestic market and better connections to key players. Second, the foreign partner will have superior knowledge of the attributes demanded by viewers in his/her market and can help assure the program possesses such attributes. This is particularly important for a cultural product such as television programming and reduces, and may even eliminate, the "cultural discount"--the reduction in value as a program crosses an international boundary (see Hoskins & Mirus, 1988, p. 500). We also note that where quotas are in effect, the value of a program to a foreign broadcaster will be affected not only by the program's attributes but by whether it is classified as domestic content. If the program is not classified as a national production, there is in effect a "regulatory discount" also. An IJV is usually structured in such a way as to avoid this regulatory discount. As we have seen, some official co-productions can count as national productions in the partner's market with only 15% to 30% foreign partner participation, while one twin can qualify with no non-financial participation.

Our hypothesis is that market access is an important motive for forming IJVs in television program production not only because of these cultural and regulatory aspects but because of its public good or joint-consumption characteristic. The joint-consumption or public good nature of the product is that a television program is not "used up" when consumed; hence most of the cost results from production of the original and is largely unaffected by the number of markets to which copies are supplied. Access to a partner's market thus adds revenue at very little additional cost.
4. Access to third-country market
Given the joint-consumption characteristic of television programs, if a partner improves access to a third-country market this is also particularly valuable. If that market is the U.S., the largest and highest paying market, so much the better. Improved access would likely occur if viewers in the third-country market demand similar attributes, language is important in this respect, to those in the partner's market. We hypothesize that this would make Canadian partners, with their North-American English, particularly attractive to foreign producers, especially those from non-English-language countries, hoping to access the U.S. market. The partner may also enjoy superior knowledge regarding the distribution system of the third-country market and better connections with key players in it.
5. Learning from partner
Learning opportunities may be anticipated if the partner has greater experience in the creative, technical or business aspects of program development, shooting, post-production or distribution. We hypothesize that learning may be an important motive for a producer from a historically non-commercial industry environment seeking a foreign partner from a highly commercial market. Such a foreign partner would be more attuned to developing programs with attributes that appeal to viewers and more efficient in program production and general management. Working with such a partner should provide learning opportunities, and expertise gained could be exploited in future projects.
6. Risk reduction
Risk can be reduced through product portfolio diversification. Given the difficulty in predicting which television programs will prove to be successful, it is less risky to have a partial involvement in several IJV projects than a larger investment in one domestic project. This advantage could also be obtained through domestic joint ventures.
7. Cheaper inputs in partner's country
An IJV is one method of facilitating access to cheaper foreign inputs. However, such access is usually easily available without this organizational structure through "run-away" production, for example, a U.S. production "shot" in Vancouver such as MacGyver.
8. Desired foreign locations
An IJV may facilitate access to a desired foreign location. Again, however, such access is usually possible for a foreign project through a service agreement.

Potential Drawbacks

To a greater or lesser extent these drawbacks could also apply to domestic joint ventures.
1. Transaction costs
These are the costs of negotiating the original deal, co-ordinating the production and distribution of the IJV program, and additional administrative burdens, such as dealing with more than one government. Our expectation would be that these costs would be greatest when the project is a genuine co-production with responsibilities evenly shared.
2. Loss of control and cultural specificity
An IJV inevitably involves compromises concerning the character of the program and the creative talent employed. Some producers (and regulators) may be concerned that the cultural integrity of the program produced is undermined. We hypothesize that such concerns are likely to be greatest where the foreign partner is from a country that has been very successful in producing television programs for the international market. This concern is likely to have both non-monetary and monetary aspects. It may be that the compromised program, far from appealing to viewers in both markets, actually appeals to neither.
3. Exploitation or cheating by the foreign partner
There is the possibility that the partner may "cheat" by underallocating resources to the IJV in the hope of a "free-ride," or by providing misleading information regarding the level of costs or revenues to be shared.
4. Creating a more formidable competitor
If the foreign partner learns from collaboration in an IJV, the expertise gained may make him/her a more formidable competitor in the future.

Evidence on Motives for IJVs

Evidence is available from examination of the trade literature, interviews with industry participants, and analysis of the co-production data presented earlier.

Trade Literature Evidence

This evidence is from quotations or paraphrased statements attributed to industry participants. The quotations or paraphrased statements were drawn primarily from a systematic examination of Playback, the Canadian trade journal, and Video Age International from April 1986 to March 1990, but also draws on Cinema Canada, Variety, Broadcaster, and Challenges. Given the sources, there is an emphasis on the motives of Canadian partners or foreign partners in IJVs with Canada. The results were classified by the number of occasions a benefit or drawback was mentioned, and the country alliance context in which it was raised.

Of the potential benefits, much the most frequently cited (18 times) is pooling of financial resources. Access to the partner's market (10 citations), and access to third-country markets (9 citations) followed. In practice it was sometimes difficult to distinguish between the two as some quotations referred to improved market access in general; on these occasions both access to the partner's market and a third-country market were credited. Access to the market of the partner was a particularly frequently cited motive (5 times) for Canadian participants in IJVs with France. The reason appears to be that official treaty co-productions with France have given Canadian producers access to the French (the only sizeable market for French-language productions) and other EC markets. On the other hand, an important motive for French partners undertaking an IJV with a Canadian partner has been the hope of accessing third-country markets (4 citations), in particular the U.S. French producers state approvingly that "Canada adds a modern air" and "the flavour is North American" (Sherman, 1984, p. 14).

Access to cheaper inputs and access to foreign government incentives/subsidies get several mentions. Learning and cultural goals do not receive much weight. Risk pooling and access to a desired foreign location were not cited.

By far the most frequently mentioned drawback associated with IJVs is loss of control and associated cultural specificity (16 citations). The French seem particularly concerned about this in the context of partnerships with the U.S. (6 citations). Such partnerships are looked upon as unequal with the French partner having little control. In the words of Michel Mitrani, a prominent French producer/director, "Co-productions with Americans invariably suffer from identity problems...The American determines the script. There are no compromises" (Video Age International, 1990, p. 41).

Increased co-ordination and production costs were mentioned 6 times. There did not appear to be a great fear of exploitation/cheating (2 citations) or fear of creating a formidable competitor (1 mention). Fear of exploitation/cheating may be greater than this suggests, however. Not included in the count were several more positively slanted statements referring to the need to select trusted foreign partners and the importance of ongoing relationships with such partners. For example, Pat Ferns, a Canadian producer, is quoted as saying, "It takes time to build trust, but trust is the key. People like working with partners who listen and deliver what they say" (Schull & Morgan, 1989, p. 34). Producers are involved in many projects over time (and often several at one time) and a deterrent to cheating may be the fear that word will get out (probably justified, as this does not appear to be a secretive industry) and restrict involvement in future collaborative ventures. As Denis Heroux, the Canadian producer, states, "If you want to seduce someone in this business, you have to realize it's not only for that night--you've got to be there the next morning too" (Wright, 1987, p. 37). Also not included in the count is evidence that foreigners were sometimes regarded as awkward. Brian Harris, the managing director of Yorkshire TV, in the U.K., is quoted as saying "You know the French aren't easy to deal with, and the Italians are even more difficult" (Schull & Morgan, 1989, p. 34) while Quebec producers are said to exasperated by "an arrogant but widely held perception in France that Quebec writers and actors are unable to speak international French" (Montgomery-Schell, 1989, p. 33).

Overall the evidence suggests that pooling of financial resources is the most usual motive for undertaking an IJV, followed by benefits from access to a partner's market and to third-country markets. Much the most common cost identified is loss of control and cultural specificity. However, on several occasions the literature suggests a way that permits enjoyment of these advantages while avoiding this cost. The solution suggested is twinning. In the words of Stephen Roth, Canadian producer, "Essentially there is one set of creative juices that get the project going...twinning is a more realistic and rewarding alternative (than traditional co-production)...with each producer in control of one project" (Cox, 1987, p. 40).


In February 1991 interviews were conducted with seven Canadian industry participants. The primary purpose of the interviews was to obtain feedback on a proposed questionnaire on motives of IJV participants. Inevitably this led to discussions on what they considered the most important benefits and costs to be.

Uniformly they considered pooling of financial resources to be the most common and most important motive. Several mentioned that the U.S. market has changed radically in the last three to five years. Audience fragmentation and the associated rise of cable channels has resulted in a decrease (in real terms) in network licence fees and syndication fees and an increasing shortfall between revenues and production costs. This has led to U.S. players seeking co-venture financing.

Market access is also considered important. Canada is viewed as being in the fortunate position of constituting a bridge between Europe and the U.S. Europeans (particularly the French) value a Canadian partner because such a partner provides North-American English and style (and the chance of a U.S. sale) without the threat of loss of control associated with an IJV with a U.S. partner. Americans value a Canadian partner because, through its co-production treaties, Canada can circumvent quota barriers and provide increased access to the EC market.

Cheaper input costs used to be a motive for U.S. producers seeking a Canadian partner but is no longer important. In any case "run-away" production has often been used to provide this benefit without the need for an IJV.

On the cost side, loss of control received several mentions but, unlike the trade literature evidence, did not dominate increased costs associated with co-ordination and production. One producer, involved in an IJV with France, mentioned the need for daily one-hour telephone conversations with his partner. There are costs associated with keeping two sets of accounts and form filling for two sets of bureaucracy. If double-shooting is involved this significantly increases costs. Different organizational cultures can cause difficulties. In Europe production is still an art form rather than a business with consequent inefficiencies. Presumably this provides the European partner with a learning opportunity.

Evidence from Analysis of Co-Production Data

The data on Canadian participation in television international co-productions, 1983-91, already presented in this paper, revealed large budgets, on a per-hour of programming produced basis 2.6 times greater than the size of the average Telefilm Canada project. This is consistent with our hypothesis that financial pooling and market access benefits of the IJV mode are crucial for large budget projects.

The significant proportion of English-language projects, 13 of 31, undertaken under the Canada-France co-production treaty and their particularly large budgets is consistent with the hypothesis that this treaty is being extensively used to produce high production quality (budget-per-hour of programming produced can be viewed as a proxy for this) programming, primarily drama, aimed at English-language export markets, notably the U.S. If this is the goal, it is not surprising that the Canadian English-language partners, who have language and other attributes in common with the U.S., have a 65% budget contribution even though for all Canada-France co-productions there is a rough balance. The data suggests the French partners in such projects are using the co-productions to participate in projects which have the promise of U.S. sales (and, in some cases, U.S. partner participation) while the Canadian partners are using the co-productions to assemble the financing necessary for such ambitious projects. The concern expressed about this state-of-affairs at the September 1990 meeting of the Joint France-Canada Commission is not surprising. It is an interesting example of a not uncommon situation where government cultural goals and the economic incentives of cultural industry participants conflict.

The English-French double-shoots, all with France, also have very high budgets although it should be noted that double-shooting itself adds some 20%-50% to production costs. The preponderance of French funding suggests these are projects conceived by the French partner as French-language projects but given an English-language version to facilitate a U.S. sale.


The IJV mode of producing television programs has become an increasingly employed strategy in the commercial global television market emerging as a consequence of the new technologies and the trend to de-regulation.

Official international co-productions were responsible for 21% to 38% of the total budget (including foreign contributions) of all projects with Telefilm Canada funding. Inclusion of international co-ventures may approximately double this. France is much the most important co-production partner accounting for 40 of the 61 projects completed 1983-91. The outstanding feature of co-productions is their large budget, on a per-hour basis 2.6 times greater than that for other projects: English-language and English/French double-shoot projects with France have particularly large budgets. The 13 English-language co-productions (not counting double-shoots) with France have a combined budget actually exceeding the seventeen French-language projects.

The international business literature, adapted for television program production, suggests the potential benefits of an IJV to be pooling of financial resources, access to foreign government's incentives and subsidies, access to partner's market, access to third-country markets, learning from partner, risk reduction, cheaper inputs in partner's country, and access to desired foreign locations. We hypothesized that pooling of financial resources and market access benefits would be particularly important due to the joint-consumption nature of the product as well as cultural and regulatory "discounts." Potential drawbacks of an IJV are transaction costs, loss of control and cultural specificity, exploitation by a foreign partner, and creation of a more formidable competitor.

Both the trade literature evidence and the interview evidence suggest that pooling of financial resources is the most common motive for undertaking an IJV. The recent audience fragmentation in the U.S. has caused this to become a motive even for U.S. producers. The evidence is also consistent in indicating market access, to both the partner's market and third-country markets, to be important. The data on Canadian participation in official co-productions that shows these projects to be high budget is consistent with pooling of financial resources and market access being prime motives. The interviews indicated that Europeans value a Canadian partner because the Canadian can provide North-American English, style, and chance of a U.S. sale. The trade literature supports this, while the data showing that a surprisingly high proportion of all projects with France have been English-language is also consistent. The interviews also indicate that Americans value a Canadian partner because Canada's co-production treaties (notably with France) provide increased access to the EC market.

With respect to drawbacks, the trade literature evidence is that loss of control and associated cultural specificity is the most common. It is a particular concern for the French in partnerships with the U.S. This is followed by transaction costs, that is the costs of co-ordination with the partner. The interview evidence also indicates these two drawbacks to be the most common but suggests they are of roughly equal importance.

From a public policy perspective the prominence given to loss of control and cultural specificity is a concern. It would be interesting to conduct a comparative content analysis of a sample of IJVs and a sample of purely domestic productions to see if there are differences. It would also be worthwhile to evaluate the viewpoint, expressed in the trade literature, that twinning is a mode that permits enjoyment of most of the benefits of IJVs while limiting any loss of control and cultural specificity.

In conclusion, we observe that it appears television projects typically fall into one of two categories. The first is ambitious, big-budget projects, most often drama, aimed at an international audience. For such projects the IJV mode is beneficial and indeed may be a necessity. The IJV mode makes such projects feasible through pooling of finance, almost ensuring access to the market of each partner, and often facilitating access to third-country markets. The other category of projects is relatively low budget aimed at the domestic audience. Here, purely domestic production is appropriate.


An early version of parts of this paper was presented to the Fourth International Television Studies Conference, July 24-26, 1991, in London, England. The authors acknowledge the financial support provided by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and National Centre for Management Research and Development. They also wish to thank Peter Katadotis, Debbie Drisdell, Louise St. Louis, Mario Bolduc, Camille Gueymard, and Dyane Paré of Telefilm Canada for their assistance and advice. Any errors are the sole responsibility of the authors.
Based on Telefilm Canada (1989).
This section is derived from project data kindly provided directly to the authors in November 1992 by Telefilm Canada. The data presented includes all television international co-productions that applied for Telefilm Canada investment from 1983 to 1991 and were subsequently completed. Hence the budget figures reported are final for these projects. We have not included data for applications during this period where the project has not yet been completed because provisional budget figures are very unreliable and indeed a few such projects may never be completed. There are 25 of these uncompleted international co-productions, most of which applied for Telefilm Canada funding in 1991.
Inflation meant that the value of the dollar decreased more than 30% during 1983-91. To make data for different years comparable, constant dollars with a common 1986 base were used.
Detailed results of the trade literature survey can be obtained from the authors. We are indebted to an anonymous referee for this suggestion.


Acheson, K., & Maule, C. (1989). The higgledy-piggledy trade environment for films and programs. World Competition, 13(2), 47-62.

Beamish, P. W., & Banks, J. C. (1987, Summer). Equity joint ventures and the theory of the multinational enterprise. Journal of International Business Studies, pp. 1-16.

Collins, R., Garnham, N., & Locksley, G. (1988). The economics of television: The UK case. London: Sage.

Contractor, F. J., & Lorange, P. (1988). Competition vs. cooperation: A benefit/cost framework for choosing between fully-owned investments and co-operative relationships. Management International Review, 28 (Special Issue on Co-operative Issues in International Business), 5-18.

Cox, R. (1987, June 28). Pitfalls of co-production. Playback, p. 40.

Harrigan K. R. (1988). Strategic alliances and partner asymmetries. Management International Review, 28 (Special Issue on Cooperative Issues in International Business), 53-72.

Hoskins, C., & Mirus, R. (1988). Reasons for US dominance of the international trade in television programmes. Media, Culture and Society, 10, 499-515.

Hoskins, C., & McFadyen, S. (1991). The US competitive advantage in the global television market: Is it sustainable in the new broadcasting environment? Canadian Journal of Communication, 16, 207-224.

Video Age International. (1990, February). Love that Yank dollar...but not conditions that go with it, pp. 41-42.

Montgomery-Schell, C. (1989, November 27). Producers expanding scope of operations. Playback, p. 33.

Renaud, J. L., & Litman, B. (1985, September). Changing dynamics of the overseas marketplace for TV programming. Telecommunications Policy, pp. 245-261.

Schlesinger, P. (1986). Trading in fictions: What do we know about British television imports and exports? European Journal of Communication, 1, 263-287.

Schull, C., & Morgan, J. (1989, September 4). Who'll be at the forum and why? Playback, p. 34.

Sherman, D. (1987, November 16). US films sweeping over France. Playback, pp. 14, 23.

Telefilm Canada. (1985-86 to 1990-91). Annual report. Montreal: Communications Department, Telefilm Canada.

Telefilm Canada. (1989). Copro: Policies and procedures. Montreal: Communications Department, Telefilm Canada.

Wright, C. (1987, September 7). Co-productions, a window on world for homegrown talent. Playback, pp. 37-38.

  •  Announcements
    Atom logo
    RSS2 logo
    RSS1 logo
  •  Current Issue
    Atom logo
    RSS2 logo
    RSS1 logo
  •  Thesis Abstracts
    Atom logo
    RSS2 logo
    RSS1 logo

We wish to acknowledge the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for their financial support through theAid to Scholarly Journals Program.