CBC explores 'loyalty' program

OTTAWA – The CBC is considering creating a customer “loyalty” program as it bleeds revenues from the NHL lockout and struggles with deep federal budget cuts.

The Crown corporation has formally asked qualified private-sector firms for information about how such a program might work to grab more viewers and listeners — and bring in more cash.

The notice suggests the CBC is considering adding game-like challenges on its websites, offering reward points to keep people engaged with the broadcaster’s programming, an approach known in the retail business as “gamification.”

The sparsely worded notice suggests CBC reward points could be cashed in for branded merchandise now offered through the corporation’s web-based, and through its three retail outlets in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.

The initial proposal is for the CBC’s English services, with a possible expansion to broadcaster’s French-language arm.

The corporation is asking for responses to its industry call for information by Jan. 25.

The CBC “has a number of loyalty-like initiatives in production to support programming and to increase audience engagement, but many are short-lived around specific events,” says the notice.

The proposal is “to gather best practices from best-of-class firms within the loyalty vertical to assess the opportunity for the Corporation to implement a comprehensive loyalty program.”

The corporation is releasing details of the proposals only to qualified firms who step forward.

“At this stage, it’s just a request for information where we’re looking to see whether or not setting up this kind of program is worth the investment,” CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson said in an emailed response to questions.

“CBC is always looking for new opportunities to have a deeper level of engagement with our audience and new ways to raise revenue.”

Thompson declined to respond to further questions because the concept was only at the “exploratory stage.”

The prolonged NHL labour dispute has cut into the corporation’s TV advertising revenues, and it continues to struggle with a 10 per cent cut in its $1-billion parliamentary subsidy over three years.

The corporation, like many retailers, has a web-based member centre where people can sign on for CBC emails and alerts, submit photos and videos, and post comments and reviews.

The CBC Shop also brings in merchandise cash, with top sellers including a DVD set of the best of Mr. DressUp, a vintage children’s TV show, and a retro CBC “mobile reporting bag” designed after the bags carried by radio correspondents and others in the 1940s.

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