CTV is Canada's oldest private broadcaster, and second-oldest network behind the publicly owned CBC. It began broadcasting in 1961, nine years after the CBC, and was established for many of the same reasons that ITV was in the United Kingdom: to end the public monopoly over Canadian broadcasting and provide choice for viewers. (Throughout the history of analog transmission, most Canadians have been able to watch the three (and later four) American networks as well. Simulcasts with Canadian stations are plastered over on cable.) "CTV" doesn't legally stand for anything, but nearly everyone assumes it to mean "Canadian Television". note Many Station Idents, by American branding firm Pittard Sullivan, have capitalized on this assumption.
Today, it is owned by Bell Media, who also own The Comedy Network, MuchMusic, Space, TSN (which is heavily aligned with ESPN), The Movie Network, and Canadian versions of MTV, Discovery Channel (along with Animal Planet and Investigation Discovery), E!, and HBO among others.
The network took a long time to find its feet. Most shows were simulcasts (essentially, authorized network feeds) from the three American networks, which remains true to this day. However, "CanCon" content laws required some local broadcasting. During the early years, most of these were very cheaply produced game shows. Famously, the network's first well-known attempt at a sitcom was the notorious flop The Trouble With Tracy, regarded as one of the worst shows of all time. Judge for yourself.
For a short time in 1966-69, CTV was the first Canadian TV network to have an American affiliate: WNYB-TV, licensed to Jamestown, NY but serving Buffalo, owned by Lowell "Bud" Paxson (who later founded the Home Shopping Network and Ion). WNYB used Toronto flagship CFTO's over-the-air signal to get CTV's networked programming, which sometimes led to interference problems as WNYB relayed the signal from another TV station on the same channel (such as WNYS in Syracuse, NY or WWTV in Cadillac, MI, both on VHF channel 9 like CFTO) or from a nearby Jamestown radio station. The station was also prone to blunders such as airing the same episode of The Aquanauts every day for two weeks or neglecting to switch out the CFTO station ID for WNYB's in violation of FCC rules. CTV's reliance on American simulcasts proved to be WNYB's undoing, as the Big Three affiliates in Buffalo threatened legal action and forced WNYB to drop their CTV affiliation; Paxson tried using a prototype of the Home Shopping Network format to stay afloat, but the station was forced to go dark in 1970 when WUTV signed on and it became clear that Buffalo was too small for two independent TV stations.
After over a decade in the doldrums, the network's fortunes began to change in the mid-1970s. Lloyd Robertson, a star news anchorman for the CBC, was lured over to CTV with the promise of editorial control, and remained at the news desk for 35 years, until his retirement in 2011. Canada's most popular game show, Definition, began running in 1974. The network also has a knack for taking American programs and making Canadian versions of them. It actually beat 60 Minutes to the punch by two years with their own newsmagazine show called W-Five. A morning show called Canada AM began running in 1972. One of the iconic Canadian series, The Littlest Hobo, debuted in 1979.
But the CBC remained the dominant network well into The '90s, at which point public funding began to dry up in the face of federal budget problems. At the same time, the CBC made the well-intentioned but boneheaded decision to stop simulcasting American programs (except for strip repeats of The Simpsons, for some reason). This allowed CTV (and rival network Global) to become incredibly dominant. One major homegrown success from this period was Due South, which was the first series produced for Canadian audiences to be simulcast in primetime by an American network, in this case CBS a rare and incredibly satisfying role reversal. The CTV National News also pulled ahead of the CBC's late evening news in the ratings during this decade, following a botched revamp of The National into CBC Prime Time News (with the show being moved from 10PM to 9PM, ratings cratered); even after the CBC brought The National back and moved it back to 10PM, CTV remained well ahead of it ratings-wise.
In the early 90's, Baton Broadcasting (a major owner of CTV affiliates, most notably Toronto flagship CFTO-9) made a few tricky moves with an intent to either gain more power within CTV, or subvert it entirely and build its own network; it bought several CTV affiliates from various owners, but then realized that under its cooperative bylaws, Baton still only had one vote on business decisions in the network. In 1991, it launched Ontario Network Television as a secondary affiliation across its Ontario CTV stations (as well as several independents and even private CBC stations), to fill in the gaps already provided in the network schedule for local primetime programs.
When CTV was faced with a re-organization in 1993 (which changed its structure from a cooperative to a private company with shares divided based on station ownership, and reduced network primetime programming further), a consulting firm suggested that Baton go for the ultimate prize of majority ownership and control of the CTV brand. But just to be on the safe side, Baton introduced BBS (Baton Broadcasting System), a new primary brand for its stations, and an expanded lineup of supplemental programming. It then formed a joint venture with fellow CTV affiliate owner Electrohome (which gave them joint ownership of several stations, which they later sold to Baton), but part of the deal gave Baton control of Electrohome's shares, giving it 42.9% control. For a grand finale, Baton swapped stations with CHUM Limited; giving it the Atlantic Television System (ATV) and ASN (Atlantic Satellite Network, a cable/satellite exclusive sister to ATV which in practice was the Citytv affiliate for the Maritimes) in exchange for Baton's independents, giving it majority control. After triggering an option to allow the remaining owners to sell their stakes, Baton's mission was accomplished. The BBS brand was ultimately replaced by CTV; however, BBS remained as a technicality for affiliates that had not yet reached an affiliation deal to air programs beyond the base CTV schedule (such as CHAN-TV in Vancouver; which Baton decided to meddle with after it launched the BBS-only independent CIVT, which was a clone of the original Citytv in Toronto; Citytv head Moses Znaimer even accused Baton of stealing the Citytv format outright. Considering that Baton's then-head Ivan Fecan had worked under Znaimer at Citytv before, it wasn't a totally unreasonable assumption. A purchase of its parent company by Canwest and CIVT eventually picking up CTV in 2001 led to Disaster Dominoes for just about every private station in Vancouver).
In the new millennium, CTV decided to start producing substantial Canadian programming, and has for the most part been very successful. It lured some of the producers of the old Degrassi shows away from the CBC for the Revival series Degrassi: The Next Generation. But their greatest success was Corner Gas, reckoned by many as the best Canadian sitcom since King of Kensington in The '70s. Both Degrassi and Corner Gas also became very popular in the States. The recent WGA strike resulted in American networks investing in several Canadian productions. One of these, Flashpoint, has aired on CBS as well as CTV (just like Due South, in fact) and became a moderate success for both networks. Another, The Bridge, started airing in summer 2010, but it quickly flamed out south of the border. At the same time, two new sitcoms, Hiccups and Dan for Mayor, produced by and starring many of the same people from Corner Gas, were unveiled with much fanfare.
In The New '10s, recent CanCon efforts have not been quite so fruitful. Degrassi: The Next Generation saw its ratings fall so far that the show had to make a Channel Hop to cable sibling MuchMusic (avoiding outright cancellation thanks to its immense popularity in the lucrative American market); The Bridge was cancelled after a season; Hiccups, Dan for Mayor, and the popular So You Think You Can Dance Canada were all cancelled in September 2011. On the flip side, CTV saw far better success with hour-long dramas such as Motive and Saving Hope.
Famously, CTV wrested the Olympics away from the CBC starting with the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, paying top dollar and nearly being bankrupted when the recession hit; luckily, and unlike in the case of NBC's infamous experience with the 1980 Olympics, they were a huge success. CBC did, however, regain the rights to the Olympics and will be doing so beginning in 2014. CTV has also succeeded with gaining the rights to the World Cup until 2022. Also, the network had also shown an interest in poaching Hockey Night in Canada, the CBC's last remaining bastion in the ratings, but they've been unable as of yet, having lost the new NHL broadcast contract to Rogers Media. They did, however, succeed in taking the famous theme music, currently owned by sister cable channel TSN (which is not only a Canadian version of ESPN, but is itself partly owned by the network); perhaps someday they'll be reunited...
CTV Two was established for the 2011-12 television season. It's a re-branding of what was formerly called "A" (before that, A-Channel, and before that, NewNet, as well as, in Atlantic Canada, the aforementioned ASN, and in Alberta, the mostly-educational "Access"); it has a Prime Time schedule composed primarily of reruns and "surplus" American shows with lower ratings.
Owned and operated stations, as of March 2018, include: CFCN Calgary, AB; CKVR Barrie, ON (CTV Two); CJDC Dawson Creek, BC (CTV Two); CFRN Edmonton, AB; CJCH Halifax, NS; CKCO Kitchener, ON; CFPL London, ON (CTV Two); CKCW Moncton, NB; CFCF Montreal, QC; CKNY North Bay, ON; CJOH Ottawa, ON; CHRO Pembroke/Ottawa, ON (CTV Two); CIPA Prince Albert, SK; CKCK Regina, SK; CKLT St. John, NB; CFQC Saskatoon, SK; CHBX Sault Ste. Marie, ON; CICI Sudbury, ON; CJCB Sydney, NS; CFTK Terrace, BC (CTV Two); CITO Timmins, ON; CFTO Toronto, ON; CIVT Vancouver, BC; CIVI Victoria/Vancouver, BC (CTV Two); CHWI Windsor, ON (CTV Two); CKY Winnipeg, MB; and CICC Yorkton, SK, plus cable-only CTV Two networks covering Alberta and the Maritime provinces.
The CTV News Channel currently serves as the network's sole cable spinoff. In 2018, Bell Media will relaunch four of its specialty networks - The Comedy Network, Bravo (Canada), Gusto, and Space - as CTV-branded networks (CTV Comedy, CTV Drama, CTV Life, and CTV Sci-fi, respectively) and launch two new ad-supported streaming sites - CTV Movies and CTV Vault - in partnership with Sony Pictures (Who, prior to the announcement, pulled Sony Crackle out of Canada's streaming market). The networks relaunched in late 2019.
Compare to TVA, the Quebec-based, French-language equivalent (though not co-owned) of CTV, which similarly began as a cooperative owned by its affiliate stations.
Not to be confused with the many TV stations around the world that share its initials, including Chukyo Television in Nagoya, Japan; China Television in Taiwan; Canterbury Television in New Zealand, and the television service owned by the Vatican.
Notable shows with their own page that have aired on CTV
- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
- The Amazing Race
- The Amazing Race Canada (Original)
- American Idol
- Canadian Idol (Original)
- American Ninja Warrior
- The Beatles
- The Big Bang Theory
- The Brady Bunch
- A Bunch of Munsch (Original)
- Cold Squad
- Corner Gas (also aired on The Comedy Network)
- Criminal Minds
- Live-action shows based on DC Comics / Vertigo Comics
- Dan for Mayor
- Degrassi: The Next Generation (Original)
- Desperate Housewives
- D'Myna Leagues
- Due South
- Family Matters
- Flashpoint (Original)
- Full House
- Gilligan's Island
- The Good Doctor
- Grey's Anatomy
- The Indian Detective
- Law & Order
- Motive (Original)
- Reign (Aired in simulcast on CTV Two, with new episodes airing a day earlier on Bell Media-owned cable networks)
- Roseanne (both the original series and the 2018 reboot)
- Saving Hope (Original)
- Star Trek: The Original Series - the series premiere aired on CTV stations on September 6, 1966, two days before it would air on NBC, making Canadiansnote the first people in the world to see Star Trek.
- Star Trek: Discovery
- Sonic the Hedgehog
- Two and a Half Men (Later seasons)
- Unsolved Mysteries
- The Vampire Diaries (Also aired on MuchMusic, M3, and CTV Two)
- The Voice (American version)
- The Weakest Link
- Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? - also a one-off special "Canadian Edition" (filmed on the same New York soundstage) advertised as the first worldwide to be hosted by a woman (broadcaster and future Canadian Senator Pamela Wallin).
- You Can't Do That on Television (produced at affiliate station CJOH-TV in Ottawa)