CMT is a Canadian English-language Category A cable and satellite specialty channel that is owned as a joint venture between Corus Entertainment (which owns a controlling 90% interest) and Viacom (which owns the remaining 10%), owners of the flagship CMT cable channel in the United States.
As with its American counterpart, CMT previously devoted a large amount of its programming to country music, with such programming as music videos and concert specials. Overtime, the channel shifted its focus towards family-oriented programming in the form of sitcoms, reality shows, and lifestyle programming, to the point where music programming was eventually axed in August of 2017.
It is one of two Viacom-branded channels that are owned by Corus; the companies also partner on Nickelodeon.
Prior to the launch of CMT Canada, the American-based country television network, Country Music Television, had been available in Canada since 1984, one year after the channel's launch in the United States.
In June 1994, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) licensed a series of new Canadian specialty television channels; among the ones whose licence was granted was The Country Network, whose programming provisions required it to primarily feature country music videos (a minimum of 90%). The licence was granted to a partnership between Maclean-Hunter (which owned 60% majority control) and Rawlco Communications (which owned the remaining 40%).
At this time, the CRTC had a policy that if a Canadian specialty service was licensed and that service's format was competitive with a foreign service's format that was licensed to operate in Canada, the foreign service could be dropped from the list of channels eligible for cable carriage in Canada. Due to Country Music Television's competitive format, the CRTC terminated CMT's eligibility rights in Canada as a foreign service on June 6, 1994. Television distributors such as cable and satellite television operators could continue distributing Country Music Television until The Country Network began operations.
On January 1, 1995, the channel launched as New Country Network (NCN). On that date, Canadian pay television service providers were no longer allowed to offer Country Music Television. In retaliation to being barred from Canada, the American service launched a complaint under the North American Free Trade Agreement and ceased carriage of videos by Canadian artists without major U.S. record deals.
After months of negotiations, the matter was settled when it was announced that CBS Cable, then owners of CMT, would purchase a minority stake in the service. NCN was relaunched as CMT on October 31, 1996. The majority interest was acquired by Shaw Communications at the same time; it was later included in the spinoff of the broadcasting assets then owned by Shaw as Corus Entertainment in 1999. The controversy also resulted in an effective change to CRTC policy – if a foreign channel is already available in Canada and a new Canadian equivalent is subsequently licensed, cable providers are no longer required to drop the foreign service.
In 2016, as part of the removal of the genre protection rules, the CRTC approved the transition of CMT to its new standard conditions of license for discretionary services; these changes removed the requirement for CMT to air any music programming at all. Corus stated in its description of service for CMT that it would be devoted to comedy and reality programming, films, and "one of a kind music programming". Despite the changes, Corus must still invest at least 11% of CMT's annual gross revenue to fund the production of Canadian music videos, but they no longer necessarily have to be for country music videos.
On August 28, 2017, as part of the 2017-18 broadcast season, CMT dropped all country music video programming from its schedule. The change in programming was widely criticized by stakeholders in Canada's country music industry, due to the loss of what had been a major promotional platform for Canadian performers; Corus stated that it would still promote Canadian country music through its other platforms (including its country music radio stations and Global programming).
When CMT was launched as New Country Network on January 1, 1995, the CRTC required that 90% of the station's programming consist of music videos. The CRTC dropped that requirement to 70% on February 28, 2001, and reduced it even further to 50% on February 28, 2006. With the retirement of genre protection rules in 2016, CMT was no longer required to air music videos, leading to the channel dropping music programming altogether the following year.
Today, CMT primarily airs sitcoms, late-night talk shows, game shows, reality shows, and lifestyle programming with no relation to country music. In contrast, its American counterpart has downplayed its focus on country music in favor of "southern"-themed entertainment programming.