Earlier this month, Cineplex launched “Les jeudis sans doublage” (no-dubbing Thursdays), in several theaters across Québec. “Your favorite actors! Their real voices!” claims Cineplex’s website.
Several movie theatres have featured films in their original English version in the Montreal area. However, the marketing program “Les jeudis sans doublage” brings them to theatres that, so far, have been catering to mostly francophone audiences: in the Montreal suburbs of Dorion and Delson, in the Québec City area, and in the towns of Victoriaville, St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, and Sherbrooke. “A good part of our audience has expressed an interest in seeing the latest productions in their original English version” explained Daniel Séguin, vice-president for Eastern Canada and general manager in Québec at Cineplex Entertainment in a press release.
“Officials” statistics on the proportion of francophones who prefer to see movies in their original English version are hard to get by. But the offer in original versions is quite important in the Montreal area. This post, on the blog “Watts at the movie” (written in French…), provides a good overview of what is available, and where. “I am “born bilingual” (…). I do not even realize if I read something in French or English, or if I read something in French or English, or if I see a movie in one or the other language”, writes the author.
While the news media in Québec routinely feature headlines and reports about the threat posed by the “Anglicization”, or even the “bilinguisation” of the city, many Montrealers still pride themselves on the bilingual character of Montréal. “67% of French-speaking adults in Montréal consider themselves able to sustain a conversation in English”, says Jean-François Bourdeau, head of research at the media strategy agency Touché! PHD .
English media manage to capture a fair deal of time from that bilingual audience: French-speaking Montrealers account for 28% of the total listening hours at CTV, 33% at CBC and as much as 42% at Global !
English radio stations also attract a fair deal of francophone listeners. That may be less surprising, given their predominantly musical content, but the amount of listening from French-speaking Montrealers is truly impressive: for the pop-rock station Virgin Radio they represent 51% of the total listening hours by those aged 18 and more, and 55% for the 18 to 34 age group. At CHOM, Montreal’s rock station, francophones bring in a staggering 63% of the listening hours from the 18 and more. And, of that amount, 77% of the hours are generated by the 45 to 65 age group (Astral owns Virgin Radio, CHOM , like CJAD 800, Montreal’s English talk radio. The other prominent English radio station is the “The Beat” (formerly Q92), owned until recently by Corus, and bought in early 2011 by Cogeco.)
For these English language media outlets, all those ears and eyeballs belonging to “bilingual francophones” are worth… absolutely nothing.
In Montreal, French- and English-speaking markets are accounted for separately. Advertisers, as well as media-buying agencies, have always refused to pay for the French-speaking listeners of English-language media. “The media representatives don’t even try cash in on their French-speaking listeners, observes Jean-François Boudreau. The further that some of them will go, during negotiations, is to remind us of all the audience that we get for free.”
Even on TV, where one could argue that francophones who choose to watch programs such as Desperate Housewives, 30 Rock or C.S.I. in their original version may represent a particularly well-educated and affluent segment, the issue is just not raised.
But then, this dynamic also works, sometimes, the other way. “In Québec, RDS, the French sports network, reaches more anglophones than TSN does, observes Jean-François Bourdeau. And that audience is not accounted for, either."
Marie-Claude Ducas is a journalist and blogger specializing in communications, marketing and media, and the past editor-in-chief of Infopresse, Québec's leading publication in the field of communications and marketing. You can also read her posts in French at marieclaudeducas.com.