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Originals head leaves Paramount+ Canada, casting doubt over local development slate

Paramount+ Canada’s head of original programming, Tom Hastings, is leaving the streaming company as cost-cutting at corporate level trickles down to the Canadian operation.

Tom Hastings

Hastings, who became one of the country’s most prominent and respected creative content execs during stints at the CBC, Bell Media and Muse Entertainment, joined Paramount+ Canada a little over 18 months ago.

His exit from the streamer comes almost three months after LA-based parent company Paramount Global announced plans to cut jobs in the US and internationally, in addition to scaling back its non-US content output as it refocuses on “Hollywood hits,” according to CEO Bob Bakish.

While around 800 of those job cuts were made in February, lay-offs had not reached the Canadian office until this week. A small number of other employees were also part of the lay-offs, though C21 understands they are in different departments and in less senior roles.

When Hastings joined Paramount+ Canada in autumn 2022, he did so with a mandate to build a slate of homegrown scripted and unscripted projects.

That led to the unveiling of a large development slate in June 2023, with high-profile projects including Hate the Player: The Ben Johnson Story, from Anthony Q Farrell (The Office US) and New Metric Media (Letterkenny); and six-part thriller Len & Cub, from writer Lynne Kamm, Muse Entertainment and Elliot Page’s Page Boy Productions.

Other projects on the slate include genre series Carpe Diem, from showrunner Emily Andras (Wynonna Earp, Lost Girl) and producers December Films, Cineflix Studios, Gina Marcheschi and Jon Brown; while later in the year a pair of Boat Rocker titles were added to the development slate.

Development on all these projects, for the most part, has been overseen by Hastings, and his departure raises serious questions about which titles will proceed following his departure. A Paramount+ Canada rep declined to comment on whether Hastings’ role would be replaced, eliminated or whether his responsibilities would be assigned to other members of the team.

Remaining members of the team include senior director of acquisitions, rights and inventory Susan Makela; head of content and strategy Stefania Scarfo; Vanessa Case, who was recently named VP of content for Paramount+ and Pluto TV in Canada; and Katrina Kowalski, who was recently promoted to senior VP of international content programming and acquisitions for Pluto TV.

While Paramount+ Canada has not been putting new projects into development for several months, sources on the Paramount side have indicated that the existing Canadian slate remains a priority and that various projects are in different stages of development.

Not everyone in the local industry is convinced, however. Some Canadian industry watchers have suggested Hastings’ departure is part of a bigger picture.

In 2021 and 2022, it appeared that new policies would soon come into effect that would regulate global streamers like Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+ and Paramount+ and force them to contribute to the funding of local content. In that time, all the major streamers established Canadian outposts and began staffing up.

However, in Canada the process has dragged on, and despite the fact Bill C-11 (aka the Online Streaming Act) was passed into law in May 2023, it appears that full implementation of new policies (which are still to be set by Canada’s TV regulator, the CRTC) could be more than a year away.

Knowing this – at the same time as facing huge financial challenges in the US – the major studios and streamers have been slow to officially greenlight projects through their Canadian outposts.

Disney+, in a move that mirrors Hastings’ situation, hired respected exec Stephanie Azam as its head of content in Canada in the fall of 2022 but eliminated the position after less than a year. The Mouse House’s streamer has not commissioned anything in Canada to date.

Paramount+, meanwhile, has not officially greenlit any scripted or unscripted series in Canada. Netflix Canada has commissioned and co-commissioned a small handful of originals; while Prime Video, which commissioned a raft of Canadian projects in 2021 and 2022, has seemingly pumped the brakes on putting new projects into development.

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