Policies & Standards

Documentary submission guidelines

TVO Original Commissions


TVO commissions social issue and current affairs documentaries, factual series, pod casts and short web video that focus on contemporary social, political and cultural issues that are of direct relevance to Canadian audiences and promote citizen engagement. Stories must have active storylines that engage unique and diverse points of view on issues of public interest and concern.


TVO is committed to supporting documentaries and series created by diverse filmmakers. Starting in 2022, at least 50% of Canadian documentary commissions will be diverse, as per our Diversity Policy.  


Recent TVO Original documentary commissions include:

  • Beautiful Scars
  • Ghosts of Afghanistan
  • Subjects of Desire
  • The Face of Anonymous
  • From Earth to Sky
  • Come Clean

TVO Original documentary series include:

  • Crossroads: Beyond Boom & Bust
  • The Life-Sized City
  • Political Blind Date
  • Tripping [Rideau Canal, Niagara, Bruce]
  • Faster: Humanity’s Quest for Time
  • The Water Brothers


Who Should Pitch?


Documentary commissions are open to Canadian independent producers with a demonstrated ability to deliver broadcast-quality programs with high production values.

  • Preference is given to producers from Ontario.
  • Programs must qualify for certification as 100% Canadian productions or International Treaty Co-productions.
  • Emerging filmmakers are strongly encouraged to partner with an experienced producer prior to approaching TVO.
  • Producers seeking Canadian Media Fund (CMF) support are encouraged to confirm their production financing as early in the year as possible in order to ensure access to the CMF and meet license fee thresholds. Financing scenarios can include second-window licenses with other broadcasters, international pre-sales, public and private film funds, provincial and federal tax credits, distribution advances, arms-length private investments, and producer investments (evidence of interim financing is required if applicable).

TVO requires first-window and premiere rights for all TVO Original commissions. One-hour documentaries are preferred.  Acquisitions of completed programs can be considered, provided that first-window broadcast rights are available in Ontario. Second window pre-buys and acquisitions are considered on a case-by-case basis.



Licensing for Commissions


Documentaries are licensed for a period of six years, with a 24-month first-window exclusive in Ontario and have their North American premiere on TVO.


VOD, streaming and mobile rights are licensed for a period of six years, with a 24-month first-window exclusive in Canada. License fees generally range from $60,000 to $90,000 for one-off docs. TVO receives prominent full-screen credit in the program and on all printed materials


Licensing for Development


Development funds may be advanced as a portion of the production license fee. Development licenses may be supported with CMF development financing, if available, at the discretion of the Commissioning Editor.



Proposals for Canadian Documentaries and Series


There are no proposal submission deadlines. Proposals of up to 10 pages in length may be submitted at any time. Submissions are reviewed and evaluated as they are received.

Documentary proposal submissions should include:

  • Brief project synopsis
  • Concise treatment or outline
  • Financing plan
  • Production budget top-sheet
  • Production schedule
  • CVs of key creative personnel
  • Samples of previous work that are relevant to the project being pitched should also be included

On a selected basis, TVO will consider digital media proposals that include a documentary component. Digital media proposals should include:

  • Brief project synopsis
  • Outline of the concept in relation to the broadcast component
  • Description of the user experience
  • Proposed technology and platform for the project
  • Proposed financing plan and budget top-sheet
  • CVs of key creative personnel
  • Samples of previous work that are relevant to the project being pitched may also be included

Documentary producers are required to partner with an established digital media producer if submitting a digital media proposal.


All proposal submissions are evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Originality and creativity of the treatment and/or subject.
  • Relevance of the subject to audiences in Ontario and across Canada.
  • Strength of the creative team and demonstrated ability to finance the production and deliver the project in a timely manner
  • Meeting TVO's mandate and programming needs

Submissions for Canadian documentaries and series can be emailed to:

Jane Jankovic jjankovic@tvo.org or Linda Fong lfong@tvo.org.


Allow up to eight weeks for a response.