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The critically acclaimed reboot of One Day at a Time, starring Justina Machado, Isabella Gomez, and Rita Moreno, debuted in 2017 as a Netflix original series. After Netflix cancelled the series after three seasons in 2019, American cable network Pop TV stepped in to commission a fourth (and, as it later turned out, final) season, which debuted on March 24, 2020. But with Pop TV not available in Canada, Canadian viewers were initially out of luck to watch the new season via authorized means.
On September 8, 2020, Global TV announced that it would be airing "all episodes from its fourth season" in Canada. These episodes aired Mondays at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT from October 12 to 26 with two back-to-back episodes each week. The season was then available available on-demand, including on Global's website and apps and the StackTV add-on package for Prime Video. However, as of late December 2020, it appears that Global's term of licence for the season has expired as it is no longer available on-demand.
Global's broadcasts simulcast airings on Pop TV's sister network CBS which were announced in late August. Note that only six live-action fourth-season episodes were produced (out of 13 ordered) due to the coronavirus pandemic, although there was one animated special which CBS did not air, and neither did Global.
However that animated special, titled "The Politics Episode", is now available for digital purchase (along with the rest of the fourth season) on the Apple TV (formerly iTunes) Store in Canada, and potentially on other similar stores.
The season's availability in Canada was delayed, in part because Pop TV is not available in Canada, and the terms of the program's original production agreement with Netflix restrict the producers' ability to distribute the program – even just the new seasons – to other streaming services, including CBS All Access. (There are a few other issues and side-effects we discuss below.)
Note that this article deals solely with the 2017 reboot. The original 1975-1984 CBS series with Valerie Bertinelli is currently available for streaming in Canada on CTV Throwback, and airs weekdays on CHCH-TV Hamilton and potentially other channels.
Why did Netflix cancel the series in the first place?
On March 14, 2019, about a month after the release of the third season of ODAAT, the Netflix (US) Twitter account posted the following:
The most likely underlying issues with the decision were high cost relative to other Netflix originals, combined with a low audience – though Netflix has a famous lack of transparency when it comes to what a high or low audience actually is for most of its shows.
One factor likely affecting cost: ownership. Unlike many of Netflix's highest-profile original series in recent years like Stranger Things, where production is handled directly (and the underlying copyrights held) through in-house production company Netflix Studios, One Day at a Time is owned by Sony Pictures Television, whose predecessors produced the original 1975 series. This meant that Netflix had to pay licensing fees to that studio for each episode, which likely increased the costs of ongoing production.
How did it end up with Pop TV in the U.S.?
Shortly after its cancellation by Netflix, competing streaming service CBS All Access expressed interest in picking up the show. However, as reported by Deadline, these efforts were stymied by the program's original contract with Netflix, which apparently do not allow a series to move to another streaming service (such as CBSAA) for several years after its cancellation.
The contract did, however, allow the series to move to broadcast or cable outlets, and it seems that this is what led to it being picked up by Pop TV (also owned by ViacomCBS) for a new season. The channel also acquired linear TV repeat rights for the three Netflix seasons, and the right to eventually air the series on the co-owned CBS broadcast network.
However, unlike Netflix which acquired global streaming rights to the series, all indications are that Pop TV only owns domestic (i.e., American) broadcast rights. And in any case, Pop TV is not among the foreign TV channels authorized for distribution in Canada.
Why did it take so long for Season 4 to be picked up in Canada?
There are a few reasons that could explain it.
First, because of the issues with Netflix's data transparency noted above, it is very unlikely that there's hard data available to other broadcasters that would indicate how many Canadians watched the Netflix seasons of ODAAT.
Second, the differences in demographics between the U.S. and Canada mean that, rightly or wrongly, a show about a Latinx family is likely seen as having a much smaller appeal in Canada. (To be clear: we're well aware that the fan base for this show extends well beyond the Latinx community! But, again, the hard data that would have been available to Canadian TV executives that could demonstrate this is minimal.)
Finally, the restrictions on streaming might be a dealbreaker for the biggest Canadian broadcasters. Many of them like being able to amortize (spread out) their costs with a second window for series on their streaming platforms. For example, Bell Media could have tried to buy linear rights to air ODAAT on CTV, but the cost might not be worth it to them unless they can also include it in their Crave streaming package (which is unlikely, for the reasons discussed above).
As noted above, the Canadian rights have since been acquired by Corus Entertainment, including on-demand and streaming rights as part of Global's on-demand library (including on StackTV). To be fair, this seems to be consistent with the on-demand options that Pop TV provided when the season aired in the U.S. The distinction seems to be that the rights are tied to the linear channel, not an over-the-top service (even when that linear channel is included in an OTT service).
- December 24, 2020 – Noting season 4 is no longer available on demand via Global.
- November 13, 2020 – Noting availability of "The Politics Episode" via digital purchase.
- November 5, 2020 – Updates to reflect that the (live-action) episodes of the 4th season have finished airing on Global.
- October 21, 2020 – Updated to remove outdated information, as well as clarity about streaming rights.
- October 5, 2020 – Updated to reflect the CBS (and Global) premiere date being pushed back from October 5 to the 12th.
- September 8, 2020 – Updated Canadian rights (acquired by Corus / Global). Removed sections about possible Canadian broadcasters that are now moot.
- August 26, 2020 – Noted upcoming U.S. broadcast airings on CBS.