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.

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 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.
  • Category C: Proposed by the CRTC in 2008 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 version of MTV. While its license still requires it to air music videos, the only time you'll really see them are outside of peak hours, as it has suffered from Network Decay and is primarily airing more younger-skewing comedy programs than it did back in the day.
    • Much has spinoff networks too, such as M3 (formerly MuchMoreMusic), which 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 VH1 imports (the VH-1 imports were culled with its late-2013 re-launch as M3, only to be replaced by sitcoms and dramas, mostly from The CW). Much also operates several spin-offs that (gasp) actually air music videos (commercial-free too!), such as MuchLoud (rock), MuchRetro (classic hits, formerly known as MuchMoreRetro) MuchVibe (urban), and 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 MuchMore 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 Musique Plus to Remstar, owners of the French-language V network . Much also formerly had an American spinoff, MuchUSA, which would later become Fuse TV after CHUM Limited (the owners of MuchMusic) 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, the Canadian version of Comedy Central, which airs most of their 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): it seems he thinks they like British drama and comedies like EastEnders and Fawlty Towers for some reason. Though the wonders of the CRTC's licensing system prevent any further slippage.
  • Family, the de facto Disney Channel Canada (though they have also aired Nickelodeon shows in the past), and the only channel on this list that is commercial-free. Formerly known as the Family Channel (no relation to what was the American Family Channel formerly owned by Pat Robertson that is now ABC Family, which actually does have a Canadian version now). Its 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. Family and its sister networks, Canadian versions of Disney Junior and Disney XD, are being sold to international children's television powerhouse DHX Media.
  • YTV, somewhat of a Canadian version of Nickelodeon. It used to be a lot better.
    • 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 Sixteen 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.
    • Teletoon Retro is the Canadian equivalent of Boomerang.
    • In 2012, Teletoon also launched a Canadian version of Cartoon Network & [adult swim],
    • Treehouse TV, somewhat of a Canadian version of Nick Jr., only with more variety (and My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic too!).
    • Nickelodeon Canada, the Canadian version of well, Nickelodeon. Its channel allotments were formerly used for Discovery Kids until it shuttered, but Nickelodeon is legally a different channel.
  • 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 sci-fi, fantasy, and horror programming. Yes, it airs Star Trek and Doctor Who. No, it does not air wrestling. Its French sister is Ztélé.
  • ABC Spark, a Canadian version of ABC Family from a parallel universe where CBN hadn't used Executive Meddling to keep its religious time-buys and "Family" in its name forever (and also not to confuse it with the aforementioned Family Channel). Similarly to Nick, it uses the channel allotments from the former horror channel 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 (the fact that the channel is, as of 2011, no longer co-owned with the majority owner of the Globe helps too).
  • 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).
  • 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 as History Channel in 2012 as part of a wider agreement between A&E and Shaw.
  • Bravo is supposed to be a network dedicated to the arts and was based off the U.S. channel of the same name, but now its airing dramas. At least its not doing what NBC's Bravo in the U.S. is doing...
  • TSN, Canada's take on ESPN... which is partially owned by the Worldwide Leader, even to the point where both channels have similar logos and has 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 will still have 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, which will become its primary national draw without NHL coverage. They also run a TSN2, much like its U.S. counterpart.
    • In May 2014, TSN announced three new channels: 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 Ontario) 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 equivalent of TSN; launching in 1989 as a spin-off network, it started out with No Budget and was infamously dependent on mini-golf before it was finally able to procure French-language rights to actual sporting events (though said show was a Refuge in Audacity with a cult, given that its commentator cranked the ham up to eleven when someone got a hole-in-one. All the holes were par 2, though). It has since gained the Montreal Canadiens and Alouettes as its main draws, and 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 (which has also led to the network sometimes being 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), although recently, actually finding sports highlights on it is only a bit easier than finding music videos on MuchMusic). Alongside highlight/analysis programs, it also airs the leftover sports not picked up by other channels, and is Canada's home for WWE, UFC, 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.
  • 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 went out of business February Friday 13th, 2015.

There are many more.