Toronto's High Fidelity HDTV Inc. (HiFi) is proving a Canadian broadcaster and content producer can be successful completely in high definition and without Canadian Television Fund (CTF) support. Last week HiFi announced an international distribution deal with London UK-based TVF International for HiFi's catalogue of HD programming. The approximately 70-hours of content included in the deal was originally shot to be aired on HiFi's four all-HD channels - Equator HD, Oasis HD, Treasure HD and Rush HD - but HiFi co-founder John Panikkar says the broadcaster has always operated with the international market in mind."You can be small and parochial and the CTF will love you, or you can be large and internationally focused and not go to the CTF," he says. "The more Canadian you make something, the less likely it's going to appeal to anybody outside of Canada because it simply isn't international in theme. You can tell a story that will resonate with countries around the world but if you can only tell it from a uniquely Canadian perspective, where you have to have the maple leaf on just about every frame of footage you shoot, that makes it less attractive ."Panikkar doesn't espouse one production strategy over the other, he merely says it's an unfortunate reality of the Canadian system that there isn't much of a middle ground between programs that are very international and those that are extremely Canadian. "We're not saying we're not proud Canadians," he adds. "We don't want to make stories that aren't using Canadians, employing Canadians and have directors and producers who are Canadian, all of that's still true. But the stories that we want to do we have an absolute mandate to make them as international as possible." The documentary-style of most of HiFi's programming makes it easily translated into other languages through subtitles or over-dubbing. Panikkar says distribution through TVF will help push HiFi's content to more international audiences now and in the future; TVF has ‘first look' at HiFi's production slate over the next two years, and Panikkar adds "It's unlikely we'll produce anything they wouldn't want." In addition, TVF's contacts should help HiFi in its pursuit of international partners to do treaty co-productions. This will defer some costs and help meet regulatory requirements for Canadian content. And it's certainly not as though HiFi has forgotten its home audience. "We think Canadians will really enjoy programming that has an international focus," says Panikkar.So far he seems right. Since HiFi's four channels launched on SaskTel's Max service in November 2006 as their own Category 2 package, Panikkar says their month-over-month subscription growth has never dipped below 20%. But HiFi still has room to grow in Canada. In addition to SaskTel, the Category 2 broadcaster's channels are available on Bell ExpressVu, Access Communications, Source Cable and a few smaller distributors, but not Rogers, Shaw or Vidéotron, although Panikkar says talks are ongoing with all BDUs. Growth potential also exists in the continued uptake of high-definition television. While HiFi advocates less regulation from the CRTC on the BDU side (i.e. it welcomes competing in a pick-and-pay model), Panikkar says more needs to be done to drive the transition to HD."What's the cost of not converting to HD when that's clearly what Canadians want?" he asks. "There are four million sets in Canadian homes, and the main reason that 3.5 million of them haven't turned HD service on is because they say there's not enough programming."HiFi has always been a good litmus test for Canada's HD transition. When it launched Treasure and Oasis in the spring of 2006 it automatically became Canada's all-HD leader, and now with four 24/7 HD channels it continues its strangle-hold on the top position; there are only two other all-HD channels available in Canada almost two years later. Fortunately, as HiFi waits for more HD services to come available in Canada and more Canadians to switch to them, it has the international market to cater to. "The fact that we produce all in HD and quality storytelling in HD was obviously a selling point for TVF and they think there's a ton of market potential for what we do," says Panikkar. "Worldwide, HD broadcasters are growing. There are more and more of them looking for material. And we're perfectly positioned, especially now with TVF, to take advantage of that."