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Growing the Creative Cluster in Ontario: Current Opportunities

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Figure 5: Opportunities for Ontario

Ontario's Creative Cluster has a significant opportunity to increase its share of a large and growing global market. Ontario's Creative Cluster has the potential to ascend to the top tier of global leadership across the creative industries. The Creative Cluster could also represent a critical pivot point that could leverage the Ontario economy out of the recent economic downturn and into the next emerging economy — the knowledge economy.

Two particular areas have emerged as specific opportunities for Ontario to accelerate growth within the Creative Cluster and across the wider provincial economy.

They are listed below:

Digital Media: Changing the Game

Digital media is not necessarily a discrete product line or product category, but rather accounts for many activities related to the digital distribution and potential monetization of content. While currently representing only about 5% of global entertainment and creative industries, it is an important segment of all creative industries — and is by far the fastest-growing. As with software development, it is high value with respect to potential profit margins.

Global digital and mobile revenues totalled about $65 billion in 2006. By 2008, the same industry is projected to have generated over $111 billion in global revenues — nearly doubling in size.15

This growth is in large part due to the movement towards ‘digital transition' — the migration of analog industries, such as publishing, production and television, to digital distribution and asset management.

It also represents the rise of entirely new forms of content, with associated opportunities, such as Consumer-Generated Media (CGM), Massively Multi-Player Online Games (MMPOG) and Social Media (e.g. Facebook apps, Twitter, etc.). Our Creative Cluster's most significant disruptions, growth and opportunity are expected to occur on the newer platforms: mainly video game consoles, mobile and the Internet, particularly as existing franchises are migrated to new digital sales channels. Interactive digital media is a market Ontario's Creative Cluster must address strategically if it is to remain competitive.

BOX 5: CASE STUDY OF NGEN

nGen is a "new media incubator" — a business generator and capacity builder in the interactive media sector located in St. Catharines in the Niagara Region. Building on the success of gaming developer Silicon Knights and strengthening the existing industry linkages, nGen has a mandate to help the region stimulate the interactive media industry, retain talent and create as well as exploit intellectual property.

OMDC's Entertainment and Creative Cluster Partnership Fund has been a key source of nGen's funding, allocating $245,000 to the project in 2007. nGen has shored up its start-up costs, estimated to be $560,000, with contributions from St. Catharines taxpayers and the company's partners.
The project's seven partners include: Brock University, Niagara College, City of St. Catharines, the Niagara Economic Development Corp., Niagara Enterprise Agency, Interactive Ontario and the Silicon Knights gaming company. nGen capitalizes on these linkages by developing collaborative projects including a mobile phone game of the War of 1812 and "Noise in Niagara", a website and music magazine that allows local musicians to promote their gigs and journalism students to contribute reviews.

Continuous Improvement

New growth areas, such as digital media, should not detract from the need to continue developing Ontario's traditional cultural industries. Ontario's Creative Cluster has strength across all cultural industries, a core attribute which most other jurisdictions lack. Traditional cultural industries, such as film, television, music, theatre and publishing, represent a major share of Ontario's Creative Cluster GDP; they have products and core competencies that can provide content for digital media, as well as being profitable activities in their own right. There are three specific means by which creative industries can be improved:

  • Development of advanced support infrastructure (i.e. physical, institutional and financial)
  • Expansion of domestic share
  • Growth of export markets

These core activities have been central to the Creative Cluster's past success, and will continue to account for a significant share of the Creative Cluster's GDP contribution for the foreseeable future.
Ontario's cultural industries must continue to improve the quality and efficiency of their current activities, associated production, processes, core competencies, skills, staff and infrastructure. This focus is vital not only to their goals for global market penetration, but also in maintaining the success already achieved to date. Continuous improvement encourages innovative firms to gain "first mover" advantage and penetrate new markets as they create new forms of content and new ways of monetizing that content.

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