06/08/2015 03:21 EDT | Updated 06/08/2015 03:59 EDT

Jean-Pierre Blais, CRTC Chief, Sees Consumers Clicking On TV Shows To Buy Products


Broadcasters should offer online shopping straight from their shows, says the head of Canada’s telecommunications regulator.

The so-called “click to retail” model is the way of the future, CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais said Sunday as part of a "Back To The Future"-themed speech delivered at the Banff World Media Festival.

He believes that, freed from the constraints of traditional media, producers will increasingly look to generate revenue by selling products directly to consumers.

“Imagine creating a sitcom set in a clothing shop. Now imagine empowering the viewer to click on a designer dress that appears in the show and having it delivered to his or her home the next day,” he said.

The concept is still relatively new, but earlier this year YouTube announced it would offer advertisers the chance to build e-commerce into their video ads, allowing customers to click on something in the ad to visit a site where it can be purchased. But what Blais is suggesting means shoppers could do it inside their favourite shows.

Blais stepped outside the CRTC mandate with a speech that was less about regulation than it was about advice. Since taking the role as head of the CRTC in 2012, he has been an advocate for a freer regulatory environment.

He encouraged producers worried about the financial impact of CRTC’s recent decisions — including the new “pick-and-pay” television model and the decision not to require Netflix and other new media to invest in Canadian content — to stop looking back and start concentrating on the future.

“Make click to retail a reality. Start negotiating new terms of trade — with banks and credit card companies, with Purolator and Canada Post, and with Proctor & Gamble and The Bay,” he suggested.

“Get the arrangements in place to not just monetize the content you create, but also capture potentially enormous sources of spin-off revenues through new direct-to-consumer channels.”

He also equated the reaction of some industry players to the Let’s Talk TV initiative the CRTC launched to the scene at the end of the first “Back To The Future” film where Marty McFly plays a guitar solo on stage at his parents’ high school prom in 1955 and realizes the crowd isn’t ready for that type of music. He reassures them, “your kids are going to love it.”

The reference was his way of saying broadcasters may not be ready for it now, but they need to step up their games to adapt to the changing mediascape — or risk extinction.

Blais also suggested that broadband speeds will be crucial to fostering Canada’s digital economy and that the regulator will soon have a discussion on the subject, similar to last year’s focus on the future of TV.

The CRTC laid out in 2011 that all internet providers should have a guaranteed upload speed of five megabits per second, but that falls far short of the levels required in some other countries, such as the United States, where the minimum is 25 megabits per second.

“Do the targets we set in 2011 still make sense? Or are they laughable?” he asked, saying the inquiry on broadband will ponder such questions.

Blais is apparently a pretty big Back To The Future fan as this is at least the second time he has used the franchise as the backbone of a speech. This year is the year Marty McFly was sent to in the second film of the franchise, and Blais said that — aside from the lack of flying cars — the movie wasn’t too far off the mark.

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