CBC’s Marie McCann

As the senior director of children’s content at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Marie McCann oversees the creation and acquisition of content for television, streaming, digital platforms, social media and live events for kids 2 to 13. With this front-row seat to the trends in children’s content, McCann talks to TV Kids Weekly about the types of programming she’s looking to acquire.

***Image***TV KIDS: Tell us about your remit for CBC Kids and CBC Gem.
MCCANN: At CBC Kids, we serve kids from 2 to 13. We serve them strategically on the platforms we believe they’re most likely to be on. We start with preschoolers on CBC Kids television, a national broadcast on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, a morning block, traditional TV style, about four hours a day. This content is also offered on our streaming platform, CBC Gem. We’ve been building an inventory of amazing kids’ content there. We also use YouTube as a windowing platform for some of the content that we have the rights for. And we have a pretty large group of in-house digital and television producers who make content.

The role of acquisitions for us is quite strategic. We have an originals-first strategy, and then we get amazing acquisitions. We use acquisitions strategically to bolster our offering, often to look for international brands like Paddington Bear that will attract audiences.

TV KIDS: How much are you buying in a given year?
MCCANN: It’s hard to say an exact number. If you’re pitching to CBC, consider that we’re buying for a four-hour television block, so the scale is different. We’re not looking for hundreds of hours of content; we’re looking for the right content. We’re Canadian first; that’s our mandate. In the English-language market for Canada, we have our originals. We’re on the lookout for fantastic Canadian acquisitions; that would be our first priority with acquisitions. We are also on the lookout for international acquisitions. We’re looking for marquee brands or highly original, unique offerings that are breaking ground somehow.

TV KIDS: What are some of the brand values that you keep in mind when sourcing programming?
MCCANN: Our values at CBC and CBC Kids are to entertain and inform. Both happen at the same time in a CBC Kids show. We also hope that our programming will enlighten or help us understand ourselves, our audiences to understand themselves and their neighbors, who might be very different from them. A no-go for us is any kind of stereotype. We are looking for content that reflects people’s thinking in 2022. We want to make sure that kids are not given outdated ideas about femininity, gender or race. We’re on the lookout for diverse creators and voices that haven’t been heard before.

TV KIDS: What else are you looking for in terms of acquisitions?
MCCANN: We’re definitely on the lookout for comedy. We want kids to laugh. The challenge right now is that we’re up against incredible laughter platforms like TikTok, where even some younger kids are starting to watch with parents and older siblings. Translating that to storytelling in longer-form content in animation, I would love to see a fresh take on humor that is up-to-date with some of the stuff that kids are responding to on social.

Music is also something we’re on the lookout for. We’ve launched our own music series, Ukulele U, which is a song-based series. We think this is something that is not only great for television and streaming but also our YouTube channels.

In addition to great inclusive content, we’re on the lookout for LGBTQ+ characters and creators, telling those stories naturally in preschool, school-age and tween, really seeing that being part of the landscape and not just a special topic off to the side.