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E! (originally CH) was an English language privately-owned television system in Canadamarker. Owned by Canwest, it operated from 2001 to 2009. At its peak it consisted of eight local television stations located in Quebecmarker, Ontariomarker, Albertamarker and British Columbiamarker, including five stations owned by Canwest and three affiliates owned by Jim Pattison Group.

The system launched in 2001 as "CH" (derived from the call sign of flagship CHCH-TVmarker in Hamiltonmarker), providing a secondary schedule parallel to Canwest's larger Global Television Network. It initially focused on airing programs from the U.S. broadcast networks that could not fit on Global's own schedule, in order to avail of simultaneous substitution opportunities. The system became "E!" in fall 2007, as a result of a deal to carry programming from the American-based E!: Entertainment Television, although it continued to air much the same American network series in primetime and the afternoon.

Following corporate financial difficulties, Canwest announced in early 2009 it would look to either sell or close its E! owned-and-operated stations (O&Os) by that fall. Those stations saw varied fates: Flagship CHCH-TV and Montreal'smarker CJNT-TVmarker were sold to Channel Zero; Kelowna'smarker CHBC-TVmarker became a Global O&O; and Red Deer'smarker CHCA-TVmarker shut down on the morning of August 31, 2009. Victoria'smarker CHEK-TVmarker was also originally planned to shut down on the same date, but an employee-led group reached an agreement to purchase the station from Canwest. The E! system ceased operations in the early morning hours of September 1, 2009, with the final programs being aired on the Pattison-owned affiliates (which joined Rogers Media-owned Citytv).

History

WIC purchase

Logo of Western International Communications (WIC)
The CH system had its roots in the television stations group owned by Western International Communications (WIC), which at one point owned ten stations, including three CTV affiliates, two CBC affiliates, three independent stations in Alberta that mostly carried programming from Global, Montreal multicultural station CJNT-TVmarker, and independent station CHCH-TV Hamilton.

Aside from CHCH, many of WIC's stations were involved in various types of "twinsticks", or a set of two stations serving one market under a single owner – specifically in the B.C.marker Lower Mainlandmarker, Albertamarker, Montrealmarker, and Kelownamarker markets. The second stations were, respectively, CHEKmarker, CKRDmarker, CJNT, and CHBCmarker.

WIC was an ownership group, and not a network unto itself; the company was rarely able to co-ordinate the programming of its first-string stations, much less the second-string outlets, due to the stations' different network affiliations. Even so, during the 1990s, WIC had been stepping up its acquisitions of American programming, eventually acquiring shows such as Everybody Loves Raymond, Just Shoot Me, and Touched by an Angel.

These programs were broadcast on CHCH (which was rebranded "ONtv" in 1997, a change that was not popular with the station's core Hamilton audience), and on its other stations when timeslots were available. For example, in the Vancouvermarker area in the late 1990s, CTV network programming – i.e. the 40 hours per week not aired on VTVmarker – would air in-pattern on BCTVmarker, with some WIC programming airing in the remaining timeslots. On CHEK, the same CTV programs would generally air out-of-pattern, with additional WIC programming scheduled for in-pattern timeslots. This effectively gave WIC one "full" station to program itself in the Vancouver market. Similarly, in Alberta, Global or WIC programs that could not fit onto the schedules of WIC's Calgary or Edmonton stations would instead air on Red Deer CBC affiliate CKRD, available on cable in much of the province, in non-network timeslots.

Canwest reached an agreement to purchase WIC's conventional television arm in 1999. Despite strong opposition from competitors and advocacy groups, Canwest was allowed to keep all of the WIC stations save CFCF-TVmarker in Montreal. By promising to continue to support the "underserved" communities these stations were originally intended to serve – support which, Canwest argued, no competing broadcaster could provide – it was able to maintain the B.C. and Alberta twinsticks, re-align CJNT with CKMImarker, and most importantly secure a new twinstick in the major market of Ontariomarker with both its own CIIImarker and WIC's CHCH.

The launch of CH

CH's first logo (2001-2005)
CH's second logo (2005-2007)
In February 2001, CHCH dropped its "ONtv" branding, becoming the first to adopt the CH brand. It was followed by CHEK (newly disaffiliated from CTV) and multicultural station CJNT that September. The initial CH schedules largely consisted of the programming Canwest had inherited from WIC – indeed there were almost no programming changes initially at CHCH, since the branding change came mid-season. However, a handful of WIC programs would eventually be "cherry-picked" by Global. The stations also began to cross-promote heavily with the local Global stations.

CKRD joined in 2005 after disaffiliating from the CBC, and changed its call letters to CHCA in the process. Kelowna's CHBC and Kamloopsmarker's CFJCmarker, the latter owned by the Jim Pattison Group, disaffiliated from the CBC in February 2006 and joined CH. Although CFJC was not owned by Canwest, the joint sales agreement between the two stations necessitated CFJC's affiliation switch. With a replacement brand for CH expected in the near future, both CHBC and CFJC maintained their own local identities for the remainder of the "CH" era.

While CH briefly used the slogan "Closer to Home" when it launched, the letters "CH" were derived from the call sign of flagship CHCHmarker, which Canwest had promised to re-focus on local programming after the station's traditional Hamilton-area audience was alienated by the ONtv era. CJNTmarker in Montreal referred to the initials as Canal Horizon, or CH Horizon, until 2002.

The rebranding to E!

Published reports in early 2006 suggested that Canwest was looking to rebrand the CH stations. However, that brand remained in use for more than a year. In April 2007, Canwest finally announced that the CH stations would be relaunched as E! that fall; the changes took effect on September 7. E! (U.S.) owner Comcast licensed the brand name and programming, but it did not obtain ownership in the Canadian E! network.

The launch of E! in Canada marked the first adoption of a specialty channel-type schedule by an over-the-air system in Canada, essentially a loophole in the CRTC's one-channel-per-genre policy for specialty channels. (Terrestrial stations have no restrictions on the genres of programming they can air, so long as they meet their Canadian content and local programming requirements.) Previously, E! programming had aired on Star!marker, which launched in 1999 as the Canadian specialty channel focusing on entertainment and celebrity programming.

Pattison announced in September 2007 that its two remaining CBC affiliates, CKPG-TVmarker and CHAT-TVmarker, would drop their current affiliation in favour of programming from Canwest effective fall 2008. CKPG became an E! affiliate due to the presence of Global BCmarker; CHAT ultimately joined E! as well, even though there is no Global station serving Medicine Hat over-the-air.

Demise

Despite the rebranding and increased coverage, the system continued to trail in the ratings, and ultimately remained unprofitable. On February 5, 2009, amid rising debt and increasing pressure from creditors, Canwest announced it would explore "strategic options", including possible sale or closure, for its E! owned-and-operated stations, saying "a second conventional TV network is no longer key to the long-term success" of the company. The company later announced it would sell two of those stations, CHCH and CJNT, to Channel Zero, which said it would operate both as independent stations.

Canwest also made clear that it would not be running the remaining stations as of fall 2009, and in late July announced the rebranding of CHBC, and the closure of CHCA and CHEK, all effective September 1. However, as discussed below, the CHEK decision was later reversed, with an agreement to sell the station to a local consortium.

The transition for each station on Monday, August 31, 2009, was as follows:

  • Channel Zero took control of programming at CHCH as of 12:00 a.m. EDT Monday morning, and at CJNT as of 6:00 a.m. (although the latter station's new programming did not actually take air until mid-morning).
  • CHCA ended regular programming by 5:00 a.m. MDT. At that point it began airing a slide thanking viewers for their support, before leaving the air on September 1.
  • CHBC joined Global (by simulcasting CHAN-TVmarker's morning news) at 5:30 a.m. PDT.
  • CHEK was scheduled to carry regular programming until 7:00 p.m., when it was to air a hour-long look back at the best of their newsmagazine show, Island 30 and a two-hour retrospective of its 53 years covering local news, before signing off permanently at 10:00 p.m. However, by late afternoon on the 31st, negotiations to sell the station had resumed, delaying the station's signoff indefinitely; nevertheless, CHEK no longer carried E! programming as of September 1. An agreement to sell the station to an employee-led group (pending approval from the CRTC) was finalized on September 4, thereby allowing CHEK to remain on the air.
  • Program schedules for the Pattison stations indicated that they would carry "regular" E! programming throughout the broadcast day, with the last Canwest-supplied program, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, concluding at approximately 1:38 a.m. PDT on September 1; however, it is not clear whether all of the primetime and late-night programming actually made air, since, by that point, it was not scheduled to air on any Canwest station. The Pattison stations began carrying national Citytv programming later that morning.


The rights to most of the system's non-E! primetime programs were acquired by other broadcasters, with most going to Citytv. Meanwhile, Canwest is believed to retain the Canadian rights to E! (U.S.)'s original programming under its original long-term contract with Comcast. These programs might move to the company's other channels such as Global or Slice, the latter having carried some E! programs in the past, or potentially even a new or rebranded E! cable channel (provided such a channel did not interfere with Star!'s exclusivity in the celebrity/entertainment genre). However, as of September 2009, no such move has occurred.

Programming

E! aired a number of U.S. programs, sharing a library of programs with Global. Previously, it was not uncommon for Global, which is carried in more cities nationwide, to cherry-pick some of CH's hits and air them on the main network. Conversely, Global programs were sometimes sent "down" to CH if two programs aired by Global begin to air simultaneously on separate U.S. networks, so Canwest could maximize its simultaneous substitution opportunities. Following the start of E!, the practice was for the most part abandoned, although such series might be exchanged between the two systems from one season to the next.

Content from the American E! network started to air throughout the system's daytime, late night, and weekend schedule upon its rebranding on September 7, 2007; this was to include Canadian-produced series aired on E! channels internationally, although the extent of this was unclear. E! programming had previously aired on Star!marker until the launch of E! in Canada. As a result of this change, E! programming was not available in all areas where it could be seen previously, although E! stations were generally available on digital cable, as well as both of Canada's satellite providers. Primetime programming continued to be sourced primarily from the major U.S. broadcast networks.

As CH, local stations (except for CHBC and CFJC) used the "CH" brand throughout the day, titling their newscasts CH News as opposed to using their often well-known call signs. Similar network-based branding practices have been common at most local TV stations in Canada, including those in Canwest's primary Global network, since the late 1990s. Upon converting to E!, that brand became similarly predominant; however, local news coverage and other regional programming reverted to local branding, such as "CHCH Newsmarker" in Hamilton, and "CJNT Montrealmarker" for multicultural programming on the Montreal station. Local branding was also used for most local community sponsorships. This decision was made at least partly to avoid confusion with the entertainment news show E! News, but it was likely also intended to ensure that local newscasts were not themselves perceived as celebrity-oriented.

For similar reasons, the E! branding was downplayed somewhat during sports programming such as PGA Tour coverage, when the system's bug was not seen. The bug was, however, used during some shows outside of the "entertainment" genre, such as lifestyle programming aired during the daytime schedule.

E! HD

On April 18, 2008, E! launched a high-definition simulcast of its Ontario station (CHCHmarker). The channel was available on digital cable in many areas, and also via an aerial signal in the Hamilton-Toronto-Buffalo area on CHCH-DT Channel 18.

CHCH retains this digital signal under its new ownership.

E! stations

Owned and operated





Affiliates and secondary carriers

E!'s three affiliates were all owned by the Jim Pattison Group. They nevertheless also adopted the on-air news look of the Canwest E! stations. All three began carrying Citytv programming on September 1, 2009.



Many Global stations in markets not served by E!, plus other stations not owned by Canwest, also broadcast programs usually seen on the E! system. Non-Global stations included CJONmarker, private CBC affiliates such as CHEXmarker and CKWSmarker, CTV affiliate CJBNmarker and the Thunder Bay Television twinstick of CKPRmarker and CHFDmarker.

Slogans

  • As CH:
    • 2001: Closer to Home
    • 2001-2005: CH Has It All!
    • 2001-2007: Closer to You!
  • As E!
    • 2007-2009: Everything Entertainment


See also



References

  1. "Local investors, staff buy CHEK", from Victoria Times-Colonist, September 5, 2009.
  2. For example: Spring 2000 Vancouver primetime TV schedules, compiled by Friends of Canadian Broadcasting
  3. Toronto Star, February 13, 2006
  4. Broadcasting Public Notice CRTC 2007-117, October 18, 2007
  5. Canwest announces strategic review of five conventional television stations , press release, February 5, 2009
  6. Canwest considers possible sale of 5 TV stations across Canada, The Canadian Press via Google News, February 5, 2009
  7. Channel Zero Inc. agrees to purchase CHCH-TV Hamilton and CJNT-TV Montreal from Canwest CNW Group (2009-06-30)
  8. Matt Semansky, " Out with the E!, in with the new at Canwest upfront", Marketing Magazine, June 3, 2009


External links




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