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Useful Notes / Canadian Multichannel Networks

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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 were formerly three categories of television services, officially described as "specialty channels", as defined by the CRTC:

  • Category A: Networks which must be carried by all digital television providers that have the ability to do so (however, most French-language Category A services were usually mandatory in Quebec only). They also had higher standards in regards to their operation and production of Canadian content.
  • 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)

In the mid-2010's, the CRTC began to loosen its grip on the class-based system in order to promote competition; Category A and B have effectively been replaced with a single "discretionary service" category, with no specific carriage requirements and a standard set of licensing conditions for each service. The Category C separation remains by codifying standard sets of licensing conditions for mainstream sports and national news channels, the latter eligible for conditions requiring they be offered by all television providers (but not requiring them to be on the lowest tier of service, as required for certain channels deemed to be of strong public interest and signifigance).

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). 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 First Nations communities in English, French, and various Indigenous languages, along with occasional broadcasts of Hollywood films, and sports broadcasts produced in Indigenous languages. While it is carried over-the-air in remote northern areas (such as Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, and Northern Quebec), it is a licensed television network, meaning that carriage is mandatory nationwide. This fact alone makes APTN more prominent as a cable network outside of the region.
  • MuchMusic, was Canada's answer to MTV. While its license still requires it to air music videos, the only time you'll see them is midday, even though that stopped in March 2020. Nowadays, they spend just as much time airing 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 VH1 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, which itself was relaunched as CTV Life Channel in September 2019.
    • Much also had international counterparts. The most common is the former 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.
  • Stingray Loud (rock), Stingray Retro (classic hits), Stingray Vibe (urban), and Stingray Juicebox (your favourite Disney Channel stars and other songs deemed age-appropriate) are commercial-free channels owned by Stingray (who also runs the formerly-named CBC Galaxie suite of digital radio channels carried by most TV providers) that air music videos. Prior to their acquisitions, Much used to operate these channels as spin-offs. In June of 2016, Stingray announced that they would acquire these four channels from then-owner Bell Media. These channels used to be named MuchLoud, MuchRetro (MuchMoreRetro early on) MuchVibe, and Juicebox.
    • 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.
    • Following this, Stingray launched other music video channels, such as Stingray Now 4K as well as French-language Stingray Hits! (previous and current decades) and PalmarèsADISQ par Stingray (a collaboration with a trade association representing Quebec's music industry; it is focused on French music from Canada and abroad, and music videos from Quebecois artists regardless of language). Some providers began to drop Juicebox after Stingray launched a new channel, Stingray Country, in 2020.
  • MusiquePlus and MusiMax, formerly sister channels to their respective English language equivalents, MuchMusic and MuchMoreMusic. They were both sold in 2007 to 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. While MusiquePlus continued to follow the entertainment-based schedule it adopted since the Astral purchase, MusiMax would outright abandon music programming, re-branding as a general entertainment channel known simply as "Max".
  • MTV Canada. Exactly What It Says on the Tin, right down to the Network Decay. In fact, its broadcast license specifically barred 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, but was strongly restricted in how many it could air.
  • The Weather Network, Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Its French equivalent is MétéoMédia. Previously owned partially by The Weather Channel, but is still very separate. The network's parent company also operates the country's emergency alert system.
  • CTV Comedy Channel, Canada's equivalent to Comedy Central. Until 2013, Comedy Network aired most of Comedy Central's shows.
  • Vision: started as a non-profit channel that primarily aired multi-faith religious programming, along with some general and family-oriented entertainment programming. After it was sold to Zoomer Media, a company run by Moses Znaimer (best 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 began to add more dramas and films aimed towards older demographics, but it continues to carry blocks of brokered religious programming.
  • Family Channel (or just "Family"), a general youth entertainment network. It used to be the de facto Canadian Disney Channel, (though they have also aired a few Nickelodeon shows in the past), but has since gone on its own (with the help of its current owner WildBrain), mainly carrying a mix of domestic productions, co-productions, and other third-party programming (its present lineup has more in common with the U.S. Universal Kids than anything). It shares no relation to what was the American Family Channel, formerly owned by Pat Robertson, that is now known as Freeform. It previously held an unusual position as technically being licensed as a premium channel, but being distributed widely like a conventional cable network; this meant the channel couldn't carry traditional commercials (only promos for its own programming, and sponsored contests. However, it usually only aired said promos between programs). As part of a larger series of deregulation and Obvious Rule Patch changes by the CRTC, this aspect has since been neutralized and Family subsequently became an ad-supported service.
    • Family's sister networks were originally Canadian versions of Disney Junior and Disney XD (the former technically being a multiplex of Family itself and also has a French-language version). When Corus obtained the rights to Disney's programming in 2015, they were renamed to Family Jr., Télémagino, and Family CHRGD. In 2022, the latter channel was rebranded once again as WildBrainTV.
  • VRAK, a Quebec channel aimed at teens and young adults. It used to be Family's French equivalent when it was known as VRAK.TV (formerly Le Canal Famille), but after its sale from Astral Media to Bell, it began to focus more strongly programming targeting teens and young adults. It is also notably one of the only Canadian specialty channels to sign off, going off-air from 12 to 6 a.m. ET nightly.
  • Disney Channel Canada. Its French equivalent is La chaîne Disney.
    • 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, WildBrain (then known as DHX Media), both networks were relaunched sometime after Disney Channel's launch. Before then, Disney Channel aired their programming in branded blocks.
  • YTV, seen as the Canadian counterpart to Nickelodeon, though they've also commissioned a large number of domestically-produced live-action and animated shows, as well as being the go-to place for anime until late 2014 (they hosted the North American premiere of Sailor Moon). Most famous for its flagship after-school show The Zone and notable for being Canada's first kids-oriented network.
    • Nickelodeon Canada, the actual Canadian version of Nickelodeon. It mainly serves as a vault channel for older Nick programming. Its channel allotments were formerly used for a Canadian version of Discovery Kids until it shuttered but, legally, it is a different channel.
  • Cartoon Network Canada, formerly known as Teletoon. 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). Has aired many American and European series and, during its days as Teletoon, commissioned numerous domestically-produced series, being the origin channel 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. As Teletoon became increasingly dominated by Cartoon Network programming, it was eventually rebranded in 2023 as part of a wider agreement between Corus and Warner Bros. Discovery. Its French equivalent is Télétoon, which, unlike the English channel, continues to exist in its current form.
    • In 2012, Teletoon launched an actual Canadian version of Cartoon Network, which, much like Nick Canada, mainly served as a vault channel for older CN programming. With Teletoon rebranding as Cartoon Network in 2023, the existing CN Canada became a Canadian version of Boomerang.
      • From its launch up until 2019, the channel also ran a domestic version of the late-night [adult swim] block. Both it and Teletoon's longtime Teletoon at Night block (their version of Adult Swim) were discontinued in favour of a 24/7 Adult Swim channel. However, the French channel's adult block, known as Télétoon la nuit, is still running to this day.
    • By extension, Teletoon Retro and its French-language counterpart could be considered the Canadian equivalent of Boomerang. It ran from 2007 to 2015 and was replaced by either the Canadian version of Cartoon Network (now Boomerang) or Disney Channel depending on the provider.
  • Treehouse, named after YTV's former preschool block. It's pretty much a Canadian Nick Jr. but also airs other imported programs (notably, they were the Canadian home for My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic) as well as some domestic productions originally made for the channel.
  • Telelatino (TLN), originally devoted primarily to Spanish and Italian programming; its lineup was 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. In 2018, in deference to sister networks devoted exclusively on Spanish and Italian programs (such as Telebimbi, Mediaset Italia, and Univision Canada — formerly known as TLN en Español), the channel re-launched to focus primarily on English-language lifestyle programs highlighting Spanish and Italian culture and cuisine instead,
  • CTV Sci-Fi Channel, 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 pretty much a Canadian USA Network or TNT (sans wrestling) with 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. In 2019, Action was relaunched as a 24/7 [adult swim] channel, the first of its kind.
    • Showcase Diva was similar to Action, but focused on female-targeted programming. It aired numerous shows from Lifetime, to the point where they relaunched as a Canadian version of that channel 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 Bloomberg, the Canadian Bloomberg (having partnered with them in 2018). It was originally founded as ROBTv, named after the Report on Business section of 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 rather poor name (because you want your business network to have an abbreviation alluding to robbery. To be fair, it was always pronounced verbally as "R-O-B TV"), and then renaming itself BNN (Business News Network) 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 their stake back). In 2018, the network partnered with Bloomberg, after its previous attempt to run a Canadian feed with Channel Zero (CHCH Hamilton's owner) went under (it was merely the U.S. channel but with a few evening programs, such as Bloomberg North, dealing with Canadian business news).
  • CMT, Country Music Television. It doesn't air country music anymore, having slipped to only airing sitcom reruns (mostly from the 1990's and 2000's) and other comedy-based programs.
    • 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 Cooking Channel, which gained a Canadian version through the closure of a sister, the female-oriented movie channel W Movies). Many of its personalities have appeared on Iron Chef America (most notably floor reporter Kevin Brauch).
    • Corus also owns the Canadian versions of its other sister networks, such as HGTV (which, much like Food Network, has also originated a steady stream of programming picked up by the U.S. parent — including, most notably, Property Brothers).
  • 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 Globemedia bought it). Has also produced a surprisingly large number of original series that are sometimes picked up by its U.S. sisters (but more often Science Channel) and other American networks, such as Daily Planet (a science/technology news show, which got cancelled in 2018 thanks to yet another round of Bell Media cuts), Highway Thru Hell, How It's Made, Canada's Worst Driver, Mayday Mighty Ships, 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, and starting to add reruns of scripted programs with science themes to its lineup after the CRTC loosened its program category rules.
  • History: Used to be known as History Television, and unrelated to its U.S. parallel The History Channel (so much so that ads for The 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. Under Moses Znaimer's direction, it was the "NewStyleArtsChannel", intending to bridge the gulf between television and the arts and make the arts more accessible to the masses (with approaches to programming used at his other stations like Citytv and MuchMusic). After he left CHUM in the early 2000s, that goal was slowly lost. Unlike what the US Bravo went towards, this Bravo instead became more focused on cable dramas and movies (being more akin to a Canadian version of TNT, sans basketball), 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. In 2019, it was relaunched as CTV Drama Channel.
  • 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. ESPN owns a minority stake in the network). As with all other Canadian sports channels, hockey is Serious Business; it has rights to IIHF tournaments (including the very popular World Junior Championship) and other events organized by Hockey Canada, coverage of Canada's major junior hockey leagues, and until the 2014-15 season, it was the national cable home of the NHL in Canada (it has regional rights to the Canadiens, 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 channels primarily serving specific regions of the country for regional NHL games and other local radio simulcasts, including TSN1 for Alberta and BC (Oilers, Flames and Canucks footprint, but all three teams are on Sportsnet so it is basically the neutral channel), TSN2 (originally the "national" secondary, but now airs regional Canadiens games for Quebec, the Atlantic, and the Senators' market), TSN3 for central Canada (primarily the Winnipeg Jets region, including Manitoba and Saskatchewan), TSN4 for Ontario (airs Maple Leafs games), and TSN5 for Ottawa and eastern Canada (which airs Senators games). 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 infamous for broadcasting competitive mini-golf (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 on the always-Par 2 holes). 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. Hence the latter is now limited to the Habs' regional market), along with French-language regional broadcasts of the Senators. 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, a.k.a. the Ottawa Senators market), 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), 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 (making it a counterpart to what was then Fox Sports Net, a chain of regional sports networks Fox purchased interest in), but is now fully owned by Rogers (who assumed majority interest after CTV bought TSN; until 2008 when Sportsnet moved out, both networks were based out of CTV's main facility in Toronto, leading to awkwardness as both channels were literally separated by a parking lot). Since 2014, it has been the exclusive national rightsholder of the NHL (Sportsnet, on launch, did have national cable rights to the NHL, but not as extensive as this new deal), with an over-the-air package sub-licensed to CBC for Hockey Night in Canada.
    • 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, rugby, etc. Formally known as Setanta Sports Canada.
    • Sportsnet 360, primarily a sports news channel (essentially ESPNEWS crossed with old-school ESPN2 in tone, especially in the past). Alongside highlight/analysis programs, it also airs the leftover sports not picked up by other channels, including WWE. 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, which have carried on as a separate company.
  • 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.
  • OLN; used to be the Canadian version of the US Outdoor Life Network (known today as NBCSN), 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 Quebecor subsidiary Sun Media, 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 (The Vancouver Sun newspaper was not co-owned with the remaining Sun newspapers until 2015, when Postmedia bought out Sun Media in 2015). 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.
    • It gained a spiritual successor known as The News Forum in 2020, which has a similar positioning, but is more toned down and lower budget in its presentation. Due to changes in CRTC rules, it was able to achieve a form of mandatory carriage in 2022.
  • 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 botched by a decision to schedule gay porn programming in the late-night hours: the owners aimed for it to be bundled alongside the other digital specialty channels launching at the same time period, but it was relegated to premium tiers as an "adult" channel instead because of the porn. Plus, Shaw went through all manners of Loophole Abuse to make its mandatory free preview as difficult 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 rebranded this content as "Hard on PrideVision" in preparation for a new sister channel devoted to adult content (later renamed "Hard TV", and subsequently sold and renamed Playmen), while PrideVision relaunched without the porn as OutTV in 2005. Best known as the Canadian home of RuPaul's Drag Race.

There are many more.