Useful Notes / Canadian Multichannel Networks
Multichannel networks in Canada
are just as regulated as over the air networks: requiring licensing from the CRTC, and being subject to rules that require certain investments and commitments in broadcasting locally-produced content, and trying to avoid dramatic Network Decay
. Admittedly, some channels have still managed to go off course, while the CRTC announced plans to steadily deregulate the licensing system for specialty channels, and begin imposing new requirements for "skinny basic" and pick-and-pay services on television providers.
There are three categories of television services as defined by the CRTC:
- Category A: Networks which must be carried on the lowest tier of service by all digital television providers that have the ability to do so (although, some channels only have mandatory status in certain regions: most French-language Category A services are usually mandatory in Quebec only).
- Category B: They are allowed to have more varied formats and compete with other Category B networks, but they cannot directly compete with Category A or C networks. They are optional for carriage on digital television services. As part of an effort to partially deregulate the industry, the CRTC is planning on deprecating Category A and shifting all of them to Category B.
- Category C: Proposed by the CRTC in 2008 as an Obvious Rule Patch after the TSN2 fiasco, where competitors complained about TSN launching what was technically a "west-coast feed" and treating it as a separate channel for the purposes of (limited amounts of) alternate programming and advertising sales. Then the CRTC discovered that the Loophole Abuse being committed by Category A news and sports channels to be directly competitive wasn't such a bad idea. These channels all have similar license conditions which among other things, allow "multiple feeds" for sports networks, and allow direct competition between other Category C services. However, they are still protected from competition from Category B services, and are also not must-carry. Given the official name of Category C in 2011.
- The unusual exception to the lack of must-carry are the CBC's news channels: CBC News Network must be carried in a digital basic tier in Quebec, while its French counterpart Réseau de l'information must be carried on a digital basic tier outside of Quebec. In December 2013, the CRTC announced that it would begin phasing in requirements for all category C news channels to be offered by all service providers (but not necessarily on the lowest tier)
A partial list of major Canadian cable/satellite channels
- CPAC, the Cable Public Affairs Channel: its like C-SPAN, primarily airing proceedings from Canada's parliament (such as the House of Commons), along with other political events and programming. It is owned by a consortium of Canadian cable companies. It also simulcast the V network's French-language coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, due to the network's very limited carriage outside of Quebec (unlike CBC's French network, which previously held the rights to the Olympics; CBC got them back for 2014). Conveniently, the House of Commons wasn't in session at the time.
- APTN, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, airs various programs (such as series, documentaries, and news) showcasing Canada's native peoples. While it is carried over-the-air in remote northern areas (such as Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, Northern Quebec, and the like), it is a licensed television network, meaning that carriage is mandatory nationwide. This fact alone makes APTN more prominent on cable.
- MuchMusic, the Canadian answer to MTV. While its license still requires it to air music videos, the only time you'll see them is during the day and in the evenings. Nowadays, they spend just as much time airing late night talk shows, game shows, comedies, and movies. They've even dropped "music" from their name.
- M3 (Originally MuchMoreMusic) initially focused more on Lighter and Softer music (such as adult contemporary and classic rock), but slipped to airing more contemporary hit videos, and was (for a time) a dumping ground for VH-1 imports. Said VH1 imports were culled in the Fall of 2013, only to be replaced by sitcoms and dramas as part of its relaunch. By September 2016, the channel was replaced by a relaunched Gusto TV.
- Much used to operate several commercial-free spin-offs that air music videos. In June of 2016, Stingray (who also runs the formerly-named CBC Galaxie suite of digital radio channels carried by most TV providers) announced that they would acquire these four channels from then-owner Bell Media. These channels were relaunched as Stingray Loud (rock), Stingray Retro (classic hits, originally known as MuchMoreRetro) Stingray Vibe (urban), and Stingray Juicebox (your favourite Disney Channel stars and other songs deemed age-appropriate)
- The last one has an odd history: it used to be Craig Media's MTV2 (Craig Media's MTV is today's MTV2. Confused yet?). When CHUM bought Craig, Viacom wanted out, so it was turned into PunchMuch, which cashed in on the trend of making money off text messaging by airing non-stop, viewer-voted music videos (blocks of PunchMuch were also shown from time to time on MuchMusic itself). Then in 2011, it was re-launched again as Juicebox.
- Both MuchMusic and MuchMoreMusic were formerly sister channels to their respective French language equivalents, MusiquePlus and MusiMax, which were both sold in 2007 to current owner Astral Media (they were originally joint ventures between CHUM and Quebecois radio broadcaster Radiomutuel, who was acquired by Astral in 2000). After Much's current owner Bell bought much of Astral Media in 2013, they decided to sell both networks to Remstar, owners of the French-language V network .
- Finally, Much formerly had an American spinoff, MuchUSA, which would later become known as Fuse after CHUM Limited (the owners of MuchMusic at the time) sold their share of the network.
- MTV Canada. Exactly What It Says on the Tin, right down to the Network Decay. In fact, its broadcast license specifically bars it from airing predominantly music-oriented programming, but because it used to literally be a talk show channel called talkTV. Also screwed over Much at first by stealing away its exclusive rights to MTV programs; but this became moot when the two channels became sisters thanks to the CTV/CHUM merger. The previous MTV Canada, now MTV2 Canada, did play music videos, however.
- The Weather Network, Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Its French equivalent is Météo Média. Partially owned by The Weather Channel, but is still very separate.
- The Comedy Network, Canada's equivalent to Comedy Central. Until 2013, Comedy Network aired most of Comedy Central's shows. If you live in the United States, please visit their website, I dare you.
- Vision: started as a non-profit channel that primarily aired multi-faith religious programming, along with some general and family-oriented entertainment programming. Vision began to slip after it was sold to Zoomer Media, a company run by Moses Znaimer (better known for his pioneering work at Citytv in its heyday) that deals in media properties aimed towards "zoomers" (which he defines as baby boomers with "zip" who still want to be trendy).
- Family Channel (or just "Family"), a Pay-TV channel airing family-oriented programming. It used to be the de facto Canadian Disney Channel, (though they have also aired Nickelodeon shows in the past). It shares no relation to what was the American Family Channel, formerly owned by Pat Robertson, that is now known as Freeform.
- Family's sister networks were originally Canadian versions of Disney Junior and Disney XD. When Corus obtained the rights to Disney's programming in 2015, they were renamed to Family Jr., Télémagino, and CHRGD.
- Family's French equivalent in Quebec is VRAK.TV (formerly Le Canal Famille), which, unlike Family, airs commercials, but also carries some French dubs of shows aired on YTV. It's no longer a sister since Bell chose to divest Family in its purchase of its owner, Astral Media.
- Disney Channel, now here for real.
- As noted before, Canadian versions of Disney Junior and Disney XD were originally launched by Astral Media, the previous owners of Family Channel. When Corus obtained the rights to Disney's programming from Family's current owner, DHX Media, both networks were relaunched some time after Disney Channel's launch. Before then, Disney Channel aired their programming in branded blocks.
- YTV, seen as the Canadian counterpart to Nickelodeon.
- Nickelodeon Canada, the actual Canadian version of Nickelodeon. It mainly serves as a vault channel for Nick programming. Its channel allotments were formerly used for the Canadian version of Discovery Kids until it shuttered but, legally, it is a different channel.
- Teletoon, a Canadian equivalent to Cartoon Network. Like its American cousin, it has flirted with Network Decay, as best it can within the bounds of its broadcast license (which specifies that 90% of its programming must be animated). Also the originator of cross-border hits 6teen and the Total Drama series. It was founded by a consortium led by Family Channel (then a joint venture between Astral Media and WIC), the two big Canadian animation studios Cinar and Nelvana, and Shaw. A few reorganizations (Shaw spun out its content operations as Corus Entertainment) and buyouts (Astral bought out WIC's stake in Family, Corus bought Nelvana) later, left the network as a joint venture of Corus and Astral. After Bell acquired Astral Media and put most of its non-premium English networks up for sale, Corus bought the remainder of Teletoon, giving it full ownership.
- By extension, Teletoon Retro could be considered the Canadian equivalent of Boomerang. It ran from 2007 to 2015 and is replaced by either the Canadian version of Cartoon Network or Disney Channel depending on the provider.
- In 2012, Teletoon also launched Canadian versions of Cartoon Network & [adult swim].
- Treehouse TV, named after YTV's preschool block. Its pretty much Nick Jr. but with more variety (and My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic too!).
- Telelatino (TLN), devoted primarily to Spanish and Italian programming. Its lineup is mostly imports and soccer, and reruns of The George Lopez Show and Everybody Loves Raymond (in English, note), mainly because they involve characters from said nationalities.
- Also runs a sister digital channel, Univision Canada, formerly known as TLN en Español.
- Space, the Canadian equivalent to Syfy, with an emphasis on science fiction, fantasy, and horror programming. Yes, they air Star Trek and Doctor Who. Yes, they're responsible for Orphan Black, Bitten, and Killjoys. No, they don't air professional wrestling, but they do air Castle. Its French sister is Ztélé.
- Showcase, once a purveyor for bold, edgy scripted series and indie movies, now a channel for high-profile dramas, blockbusters, and NCIS reruns. They're best known for original series like Trailer Park Boys, Lost Girl, & Continuum, as well as co-productions like Haven, XIII, and Copper.
- Action (Originally Showcase Action), which used to be a channel for action series and movies. Ever since the channel changed its name, they've spent more time airing "high-energy" reality shows instead. They mainly air shows from TruTV.
- Showcase Diva was similar to Action, but focused on female-targeted programming. It has aired numerous shows from Lifetime, to the point where they relaunched as a Canadian version in 2012.
- ABC Spark, a Canadian version of the American Freeform. Much like Nick, it uses the channel allotments from a defunct network (In this case, the former horror channel Scream/Dusk), but is legally a different channel.
- BNN, the Business News Network, which is pretty much the Canadian CNBC. It was originally founded as ROBTv, named after the business section (Report on Business) from The Globe and Mail newspaper—whose owner had owned stakes in the channel (later through Bell Globemedia) from its launch through 2011. Later referred to itself exclusively as Report on Business Television after they realized its Unfortunate Name (because you want your business network to have an abbreviation alluding to stealing things), and then just BNN after a decision was made to keep the Report on Business brand exclusive to the newspaper (as of 2011, Bell no longer has any share in the paper, as its owners bought them back).
- CMT, Country Music Television. It still airs music videos, but much like its U.S. counterpart, its slipped to air sitcom reruns (though, primarily Reba for fitting reasons) and reality series dealing with country life.
- The U.S. version was originally carried in Canada, but when this channel was established as the New Country Network in 1995, CRTC policy at the time made the U.S. version Banned in Canada. After protests from CMT (alleging a violation of NAFTA, and even boycotting Canadian artists for a period), they soon reached a compromise by buying a minority stake in the channel and re-launching it as CMT Canada the following year. The CRTC has since fixed that issue.
- Food Network Canada. Produces a surprisingly large number of original series, some of which have made it onto the American channel (though more frequently the Fine Living Network/Cooking Channel). Many of its personalities have appeared on Iron Chef America (most notably floor reporter Kevin Brauch). Also runs a Canadian version of Cooking Channel, previously the female-oriented movie channel W Movies.
- Discovery Channel; majority owned by CTV, with a minority stake owned by Discovery Communications (and ESPN too, but its a technicality because its owned by the same company that owned TSN before Bell bought it for the first time). Also produces a surprisingly large number of original series, such as Daily Planet (a science/technology news show), How It's Made, Canada's Worst Driver, Nerve Center, Pyros, Never Ever Do This At Home, etc. Its French sister network is Canal D, which became a sister in 2013 after Bell bought Astral Media. Also holds the dubious honour of actually having aired Sharknado during Shark Week.
- The History Channel: Used to be known as History Television, and unrelated to its U.S. parallel (so much so that ads for History Channel on A&E always reminded you that it was not available in Canada), until it ended up airing mostly History Channel imports (and a few Foreign Remakes, such as Canadian Pickers) and ultimately re-branded in 2012 as part of a wider agreement between A&E and Shaw.
- Bravo was supposed to be a network dedicated to the arts and was based off the U.S. channel of the same name. Unlike what THAT network is doing, this network is more focused on cable dramas and movies, to the point where they introduced a completely different logo. It's best known for being the home of the English version of 19-2.
- TSN, The Sports Network. After CTV took over in 2000, it became Canada's take on ESPN, to the point where it adopted a similar logo and its own SportsCenter too (fittingly re-titled SportsCentre). As with all other Canadian sports channels, hockey as Serious Business; it has rights to IIHF tournaments (including the very popular World Junior Championship) and other events organized by Hockey Canada, and until the 2014-15 season, it was the national cable home of the NHL in Canada (it still has regional rights to the Jets, Maple Leafs, and Senators; regional Leafs games are split with Sportsnet). They are also the exclusive home of the Canadian Football League, Major League Soccer, and other assorted U.S. sports rights. They also run a TSN2, much like its U.S. counterpart.
- In May 2014, TSN announced three new feeds: TSN3, TSN4, and TSN5. At first, people thought they would have to scavenge programming from ESPN8 to fill three whole channels. It was later discovered that in reality, TSN was manipulating its operation and structure to be an Expy of Sportsnet (see below), with the four channels primarily serving specific regions of the country (TSN1 for western Canada, TSN3 for central Canada, TSN4 for Ontario, TSN5 for Ottawa and eastern Canada) with regional (particularly regional NHL games in Toronto, Ottawa, and Winnipeg) or alternate programming, and TSN2 being the primary national channel. Most national events are simulcast across 1, 3, 4, and 5.
- Réseau des Sports (RDS) is the French version of TSN; launching in 1989 as a spin-off, it started with No Budget and was infamously known for broadcasting mini-golf competitions (although said show had a cult following, given that the commentator was a Large Ham Announcer who let it loose when someone got a got a birdie). As time went by, RDS matured, and began to acquire more lucrative sports rights. Today, the hometown Montreal Canadiens and Alouettes are its flagship properties (it was also, for a time, the national French rightsholder of the NHL in Canada, but after Rogers bought the rights, they were given to TVA Sports). While it does air events from outside of La belle province as well, they do much of the commentary themselves, and events simulcast from English networks are afflicted with a sports version of Reading Foreign Signs Out Loud (both of which have also led to the network sometimes being jokingly referred to as "Réseau des Studio")
- Sportsnet, a regional sports network with East (the Ottawa region and anything beyond it), Ontario, West (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta), and Pacific feeds. Despite this, they often air national programming simulcast across the four feeds, which are all carried on digital cable/satellite (but subject to blackouts for certain programs). Among other things, it airs games for most of the country's NHL teams (except for Winnipeg and Ottawa, who are broadcast regionally by TSN), coverage of Canada's major junior hockey leagues, and baseball (primarily the Toronto Blue Jays, who share common ownership). It was originally founded as a consortium between CTV (the managing partner, hence the original name CTV Sportsnet), Rogers, Molson, and Fox, but is now fully owned by Rogers. Beginning in 2014, it will become the exclusive national cable broadcaster of the NHL through a long-term deal with Rogers (Sportsnet, on launch, did have national cable rights to the NHL, but not as extensive as this new deal)
- Sportsnet One, their sister national network. Also anchors a series of NHL overflow channels in case of scheduling conflicts.
- Sportsnet World, a premium channel airing mostly foreign sports such as soccer, cricket, etc. Formally known as Setanta Sports Canada.
- Sportsnet 360, primarily a sports news channel (similarly to ESPNEWS crossed with old-school ESPN2, especially in the past). Alongside highlight/analysis programs, it also airs the leftover sports not picked up by other channels, including shows from WWE & UFC (the latter of which now airs on TSN) and most Canadian university sports coverage (its not as big as U.S. college football, unfortunately). The channel was formerly known as "The Score" until July 1, 2013, when its new owner Rogers re-branded it as part of the Sportsnet family. The Score lives on through its website and app, however.
- TVA Sports, which broke RDS's de facto monopoly by becoming Canada's second French-language sports network. While it is a sister to the TVA television network owned by Quebecor, it has a relationship with Sportsnet (Rogers had received approval for a French-language sports network of its own, but decided to partner with TVA instead) to sub-license some of its larger programming rights (such as the NHL).
- CBC News Network and CTV News Channel, 24-hour news services (similar to CNN) run by the two major broadcast networks.
- Réseau de l'information (otherwise known as Ici RDI), the French counterpart to CBC News Network.
- Outdoor Life Network; used to be the Canadian version of the US equivalent (known today as NBC Sports Network), but kept something somewhat like its old format because of CRTC Executive Meddling.
- Sun News Network, a Canadian Expy of Fox News Channel owned by Sun Media, the owners of the Toronto Sun newspaper (very similar to The Sun in London with its tabloid format and conservative editorial stances) and sister Sun newspapers in Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton (strangely, The Vancouver Sun newspaper is not owned by Sun Media and is completely unrelated). With their failures to convince federal regulators to become part of basic cable or to loosen the federal regulations against lying during news broadcasts and never consistently pulling ratings of more than 8000 viewers nationally, the channel abruptly signed off on February 13, 2015.
- OutTV, a specialty channel dedicated to the LGBT community, and the second of its kind in the world. Its original launch in 2001 as PrideVision was notably botched by a decision to broadcast porn during late-night hours. The owners aimed for it to be bundled with normal specialty channels instead, but it was widely-relegated to premium tiers as an "adult" channel, plus Shaw went through all manners of Loophole Abuse to make its mandatory free preview as hard to access as possible (this ended after a complaint to the CRTC, because a free preview should not cost $0.01 every time the channel is accessed). After its sale to a group led by William Craig in 2004, the network began the process of shedding the adult programming into a second channel cleverly named Hard on PrideVision (later just "Hard TV", and now the independently-owned Playmen) and re-launched as OutTV in 2005. Best known as the Canadian home of RuPaul's Drag Race.
There are many more.