Starting September 1, the Hamilton television station known as CH will be rebranded as E! Entertainment Television. E! is an American entertainment and lifestyle cable broadcaster best known for its wildly successful E! True Hollywood Story series.
CH corporate parent CanWest MediaWorks will license the E! trademark and manage Canadian content programming, including online, mobile, satellite radio and video-on-demand platforms. There are also CH-branded stations in Montreal, Victoria, Kelowna and Red Deer which are included in the deal. The channels will continue to offer local news programming under their previous call letters and are still mandated under CRTC regulations to create domestic programming, particularly in prime time.
Hamilton’s CHCH was the first network to adopt the CH brand upon acquisition by CanWest in 2001 after it had been operating under the woefully ineffective and horribly designed ONtv brand (established by WIC). The station was originally established in 1954 as a CBC affiliate, but then became the only English-language broadcaster to go independent without a larger network affiliation. CHCH was once known for producing some significant Canadian classic shows from their Hamilton studios like The Hilarious House of Frightenstein, Smith & Smith (which spun-off The Red Green Show), Party Game and Tiny Talent Time.
The practice of franchising Canadian versions of American brands has its critics, especially amongst the domestic production community. Canadian Idol, for example—itself a licensed British property—is a single show broadcasting on multiple nights, and it is considered under CRTC regulations as “original” programming. Inexpensive shows like CanWest’s now-defunct Train 48 also ran five nights per week, at the time allowing CanWest to quickly rack-up their Canadian Content requirements despite dismal ratings. With funding for Canadian drama drying up, it’s actually cheaper to pay big bucks for American shows rather than produce our own, leaving Canadian producers, writers, directors and actors without work. Canada also doesn’t have the wealth or luxury of the American pilot season, where most American shows are axed even before going to air.
Though Toronto-based Star! currently carries some of E!’s programming (and! an! exclamatory! name!), it’s still a relatively unknown brand in Canada. CanWest also recently franchised well-known American television brands like ET Canada and Deal or No Deal at great cost, similar to how rival CTV aggressively licensed the Canadian Idol and MTV formats, and CHUM‘s production of Canada’s Next Top Model. The CH viewer demographic skews traditionally older, and the move is clearly meant to attract highly-sought younger viewers—a market now dominated by behemoth CTVglobemedia.
While we lament the loss of solid domestic programming funding and acknowledge those young ‘uns who can never get enough Seacrest red carpet coverage, we really want to know: isn’t it time we got HBO up in this joint?
Colour bars image via DX Info Centre