Bell Media Inc. (French: Bell Média) is the mass media subsidiary of BCE Inc. (also known as Bell Canada Enterprises, the parent company of the former telephone monopoly Bell Canada). Its operations include television broadcasting and production (including the CTV and CTV Two television networks), radio broadcasting (through Bell Media Radio), digital media (including CraveTV) and Internet properties including Sympatico.ca.
Bell Media is the successor-in-interest to Baton Broadcasting (later CTV Inc.), one of Canada's first private-sector television broadcasters. The company in its current form was originally established as Bell Globemedia by BCE and the Thomson family in 2001 combining CTV Inc., which Bell had acquired the previous year, and the operations of the Thomsons' The Globe and Mail. Bell sold the majority of its interest in 2006 (at which point the company was renamed CTVglobemedia), but re-acquired the entire company, excluding the Globe, in 2011.
Baton Aldred Rogers Broadcasting Ltd. was originally formed in 1960 to operate Toronto's first private TV station, CFTO-TV. The original investors included the Bassett and Eaton families, Joel Aldred and Ted Rogers, and Foster Hewitt in a much smaller role. Aldred sold his shares in 1961, followed by Rogers by 1970; with the Bassett and Eaton families firmly in control, the company went public in the early 1970s. CFTO was one of the charter affiliates of CTV when that network formed in 1961, becoming the network's flagship. In 1966, Baton became a part-owner in the network when it was reorganized as a station-owned cooperative. The Board of Broadcast Governors was initially skeptical about the proposal to turn CTV into a cooperative. Since CFTO was by far the largest and richest station in the network, the BBG feared Baton would take advantage of this to dominate the network. However, it approved the deal after Baton and the other owners included a provision in the cooperative's bylaws stipulating that the eight station owners would each have a single vote regardless of audience share. Additionally, if one owner ever bought another station, the acquired station's shares would be redistributed among the remaining owners so that each owner would still have one vote out of eight.
In 1972, Baton began purchasing other CTV affiliates, starting with CFQC-TV in Saskatoon. This did not, however, give Baton a substantially higher investment in CTV, since its shares were redistributed among the other owners. As a result, Baton still had only one vote out of eight.
In 1987, Baton began a concerted effort to take over CTV. It started this drive with a further expansion into Saskatchewan, purchasing CKCK-TV in Regina, Yorkton twinstick CKOS-TV/CICC-TV, and CBC affiliate CKBI-TV Prince Albert. A twinstick CTV affiliate was soon launched in Prince Albert, CIPA-TV.
In the late 1980s, Baton applied for a high-power station in Ottawa on channel 60. The licence was approved by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), appealed to federal cabinet by rival broadcasters, and ultimately sent back to the CRTC for review. However the licence was surrendered when Baton was instead able to acquire the local CTV affiliate, CJOH-TV, from Allan Slaight's Standard Broadcasting.
In 1990, Baton purchased the MCTV system of twinstick operations in Pembroke, North Bay, Sudbury, Timmins, and the Huron Broadcasting twinstick in Sault Ste. Marie. In 1993, Baton purchased CFPL-TV in London, CKNX-TV in Wingham and received a licence for a new independent station, CHWI-TV, in Windsor.
In 1991, the company launched Ontario Network Television, a secondary affiliation carried by Baton's CTV and independent stations in Ontario. This was expanded in 1994 into the Baton Broadcast System, or BBS, which included Baton's Saskatchewan stations. BBS was meant as a backup in case Baton's ongoing acquisitions did not translate into control of CTV itself. A year earlier, CTV had been recently restructured into a corporation, with each owner holding a 14.3 percent stake in the network. However, any future acquisitions by Baton would come with all of that affiliate's CTV shares. It was around this time that former CBC executive Ivan Fecan joined the company.
In 1996, the CRTC approved two major deals involving Baton. First was the acquisition of CFCN-TV in Calgary from Rogers Communications, which had recently purchased Maclean Hunter. Second, Baton and Electrohome, owner of CKCO-TV in Kitchener and CFRN-TV in Edmonton, formed an alliance, under which the companies would share ownership of CFCN, Baton's stations in Saskatchewan and its independent stations in southwestern Ontario, and Electrohome's CKCO. The deals doubled Baton's own interest in CTV to 28.6%. However, as part of the deal, Baton took control of Electrohome's CTV vote, allowing it to command 42.9% of CTV's shares.
In January 1997, Baton-Electrohome's "Vancouver Television" proposal emerged as the CRTC's choice for the new independent station in Vancouver, beating out four other competitors. The new station, CIVT-TV, would compete directly with Western International Communications's two CTV affiliates in the market when it was launched that fall.
On February 25, 1997, the Baton-Electrohome alliance and CHUM Limited announced that several stations would be swapped between them. Baton-Electrohome would acquire CHUM's Atlantic Television System (ATV), consisting of four CTV affiliates in the Maritimes, the Atlantic Satellite Network (ASN), and a further 14.3% in CTV. CHUM would receive Baton's independent stations in southwestern Ontario, as well as CHRO-TV in Pembroke, which had recently disaffiliated from CTV. The Baton-Electrohome alliance now held 57.2% of CTV.
Shortly thereafter, Electrohome announced it would sell its broadcasting assets – including CFRN its interest in the alliance and its CTV shares – to Baton in exchange for cash and shares in Baton. These two deals were approved by the CRTC in August. Baton now held controlling interest in CTV, triggering a put option that allowed the other owners to sell their stakes in the network while still keeping their stations. Accordingly, Baton acquired the remaining CTV shares from WIC and Moffat Communications, which remained affiliates for the moment, that fall.
The BBS television system was merged into CTV, with the company itself being renamed CTV Inc. the following year. The Eatons' remaining shares, representing 41% of Baton, were sold off to the general public in early 1998. By the end of 2001, nearly all CTV stations were consolidated under network ownership (including one replacement).
NetStar Communications Inc. (previously Labatt Communications Inc., and currently CTV Specialty Television Inc.) was formed by Labatt Brewing Company to hold that firm's broadcasting assets, which included TSN, RDS, Viewers Choice and Discovery Channel. In 1995, when the parent company was sold to the foreign brewing conglomerate Interbrew, a consortium of four Canadian investors - Stephen Bronfman (22.5%), the Caisse (22.5%), Reitmans (16.5%), and senior management (6.5%) - along with ESPN, with 32%, took over the company.
After a takeover attempt by CanWest Global that was vetoed by ESPN, CTV announced a friendly bid to take over NetStar Communications in early 1999, with CRTC approval on March 24, 2000.
At the beginning of the 2000s, CTV (including the NetStar assets) was folded into a new media venture, Bell Globemedia Inc. (abbreviated "BGM"). This was masterminded by former Bell Canada chief executive Jean Monty, largely as a response to Canwest's purchase of the Southam newspaper chain as well as the trend of media convergence, particularly the AOL-Time Warner merger. Monty believed that, to survive in a changing technological landscape, and in particular to drive subscriptions to satellite television provider Bell ExpressVu and internet service provider Bell Sympatico, BCE had to have control over content.
The transaction was structured as follows: In 2000, BCE acquired CTV Inc. in an all-cash transaction valued at $2.3 billion (CAD). Soon after, Monty arranged to have Thomson Corporation transfer control of The Globe and Mail, the Toronto-based national newspaper, to BCE in exchange for a significant (20%) interest in the merged CTV/Globe entity. The Thomsons' family holding company, The Woodbridge Company Ltd., invested in the company directly to obtain an additional 9.9% interest, and later bought Thomson Corp.'s interests itself.
The resulting company, Bell Globemedia, consisted of CTV, The Globe and Mail, and the internet portal then known as Sympatico-Lycos (Lycos was later replaced by MSN). Fecan was named the combined firm's president and CEO, a role he remained in for the duration of the BGM / CTVgm era. After Monty resigned and was replaced by Michael Sabia in 2002, it became clear that Monty's vision was not producing anything near the desired results, notwithstanding the good results for the individual units, particularly the CTV network.
The following years provided a few cosmetic changes in BGM's assets. In 2001, CTV acquired CKY-TV in Winnipeg and CFCF-TV in Montreal, and moved the CTV affiliation in British Columbia to CIVT, replacing two affiliates that had been purchased by Canwest. That fall also brought the launch of the first digital specialty channels, including several owned by CTV.
The company acquired partial ownership in TQS in 2002, the Sympatico portal was sold back to Bell Canada, while a further investment from the Thomsons (whose ownership increased to 31.5%) funded the acquisition of 15% of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. However, beginning in 2003, BCE management began to refer to BGM as a non-core asset; as a result, much attention was given to the likely sale of the company, and potentially a breakup into several different pieces.
On December 2, 2005, Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE) announced it would sell an 8.5% interest to Woodbridge (increasing their total ownership to 40%), a 20% interest to Torstar, and a 20% interest to the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan. BCE retained 20% of the group - a condition that ensured that Bell TV, Sympatico, and other Bell units continued to have access to Globemedia content. The transaction closed on August 30, 2006.
This deal put to rest any rumours about a possible breakup of the company. However, Torstar's involvement led to additional media concentration concerns, mainly from media unions. Torstar insisted it was committed to maintaining the editorial independence of the Globe and its own Toronto Star, and ultimately there were no major regulatory hurdles due to this.
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On July 12, 2006, BGM announced a friendly bid to take over CHUM Limited for an estimated $1.7 billion. The acquisition would bring the secondary broadcast system (Citytv), other stations including CablePulse24, MuchMusic, Star!, Bravo!, and Space, and all of CHUM's radio stations, into the BGM fold. BGM originally announced that CHUM's A-Channel stations, Access, CKX-TV, MusiquePlus, MusiMax, Canadian Learning Television, SexTV: The Channel and BGM's own OLN would not be retained.
On September 7, 2006, in order to pay for the CHUM acquisition, BGM sold additional shares to its existing shareholders. BCE did not participate in the refinancing; the net effect was an increase in Teachers' ownership to 25%, while BCE's interest was reduced to 15%. As a result of BCE's reduced ownership, the company was renamed as CTVglobemedia as of January 1, 2007.
In April 2007, Rogers Communications announced a tentative deal to purchase A-Channel, CKX-TV, Access Alberta, Canadian Learning Television, and SexTV: The Channel from CTVglobemedia, if its purchase of CHUM was approved. Astral Media made a similar deal for CHUM's 50% interest in MusiMax and MusiquePlus.
That June, the CRTC approved the CHUM takeover, on condition that CTV sell off the Citytv stations, because of the CTV network's O&O stations serving the very same cities. CTV ultimately chose to keep the A-Channel stations along with the rest of CHUM assets it had previously said it would sell, except for MusiquePlus/MusiMax. Rogers Communications was announced as the buyer of the Citytv stations on June 11, 2007, and the CHUM acquisition was finalized on June 22.
Since then, CTVglobemedia has sold off its interests in various non-core channels. Rogers has purchased several of these assets, including CTV's 33% interest in OLN in late 2007, as well as radio stations CHST-FM in London, Ontario and CHBN-FM in Edmonton, Alberta in 2010. Corus Entertainment would acquire Canadian Learning Television, SexTV: The Channel, and Drive-In Classics for a combined $113 million. TQS entered bankruptcy protection and was ultimately acquired by Remstar (which renamed the network "V"). Meanwhile, Glassbox Television acquired travel + escape in late 2010. In two cases where operations were closed down, specifically CBC affiliate CKX-TV in Brandon, Manitoba, which left the air in October 2009 after a deal to sell that station to Bluepoint Investment Corporation fell through and the A station in Wingham, CKNX-TV which left the air one month prior to CKX and is now a rebroadcaster of the A station in London, CFPL-TV.
On September 10, 2010, BCE announced plans to re-acquire 100% of the company's broadcasting arm, including CTV Inc. Under the deal, Woodbridge, Torstar, and Teachers' would together receive $1.3 billion in either cash or equity in BCE, while BCE would also assume $1.7 billion in debt (BCE's existing equity interest is $200 million, for a total transaction value of $3.2 billion). Woodbridge would also regain majority control of the Globe and Mail Inc., with Bell retaining a 15% interest. The overall deal was expected to close by April 2011. However, the sale of the Globe, which did not require CRTC approval, was completed in late December 2010. The deal was approved by the CRTC on March 7, 2011, and officially closed on April 1, 2011.
On December 9, 2011, the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan announced the sale of its majority stake in Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment to BCE and its rival, Rogers Communications, in a deal valued at around $1.32 billion. Additionally, Larry Tanenbaum increased his stake in the company to 25%. and was closed in August 2012.
On March 16, 2012, BCE announced that it had entered in an agreement to acquire Montreal-based broadcaster Astral Media for an estimated value at $3.38 billion; the assets of which were to be incorporated into Bell Media. The acquisition was primarily centered on Astral's premium services (such as The Movie Network and its stake in HBO Canada) and its French-language radio and television stations. Bell planned to use Astral's premium offerings to enhance its own multi-platform services to compete against the likes of services such as Netflix, and its French media outlets to better compete against the dominant Québecor Média. The merger was notably opposed by a coalition of competing cable providers (which included Cogeco, EastLink, and Vidéotron—the last of which is also owned by Québecor Média, who felt that Bell's control of a majority of Canadian media would harm consumer choice, and lead to increased carriage fees which could cripple smaller cable companies.
BCE's first proposal was denied by the CRTC in October 2012; the commission believed that the combined company would have had too much market power. Soon afterward, Bell and Astral began to negotiate a second proposal that would involve selling most of Astral's English-language television channels in order to quell fears by the CRTC. On March 18, 2013, the Competition Bureau cleared the revised proposal, which called for the sale of several channels and radio stations to Corus Entertainment and other parties. Unlike the previous deal, which would have given Bell a 42% share of the English-language television market, the new deal would only give Bell a total market share of 35.7%, but still increase its French-language market share to 23% (in comparison to 8% before). Following hearings by the CRTC in May 2013, the CRTC approved Bell's acquisition of Astral Media on June 27, 2013. The deal is subject to conditions, including the requirement to provide fair treatment to its competitors, to not impose "restrictive bundling practices" on Astral's premium movie channels, invest $246.9 million over the next seven years on Canadian-produced programming, and to maintain the operation and local programming levels of all of its television stations through 2017. The CRTC also approved Bell's proposed exemptions for maintaining ownership of Montreal's CKGM.
On June 6, 2013, Bell announced that Bravo would be its first network to implement a TV Everywhere service, which would allow subscribers to Bravo on participating television service providers to stream video on demand content and the Bravo channel live via the Bravo Go app. Apps for some of its other networks were also released over the following months.
In December 2014, Bell Media launched CraveTV, a subscription video on-demand service. Initially, the service was available only through television providers; Bell Media president Kevin Crull argued that Bell did not want the service to cannibalize its linear television business, because its content "[would not] exist if you didn't have the traditional TV system. So you really can't sustainably have one without the other."
On April 9, 2015, Crull stepped down as president of Bell Media, and was replaced by Mary Ann Turcke, the subsidiary's former head of media sales. The move came following allegations reported by The Globe and Mail that, after the CRTC's March 2015 decision to mandate that pay television providers offer a la carte packages, Crull ordered all Bell-owned news properties, including CTV News, not to air any interviews with or footage depicting CRTC head Jean-Pierre Blais during reports regarding the decision. Although the CTV News Channel program Power Play and a report aired on local evening newscasts complied with Crull's order, the CTV National News that night defied Crull's demand by airing a story on the changes that included remarks by Blais. CTV News president Wendy Freeman, Ottawa bureau chief Robert Fife, and the program's anchor Lisa LaFlamme felt that the inclusion of remarks by Blais were necessary due to the nature of the story. In response to the dismissal, BCE CEO George A. Cope explained that the journalistic independence of its news operations were "paramount importance to our company and to all Canadians".
Shortly after taking the position, Turcke was criticized for remarks that considered the use of virtual private network services to evade geo-blocking and access the U.S. version of subscription video on demand service Netflix to be "stealing".
In late-August 2015, Bell Media began a series of layoffs, which included directors and vice presidents. On November 6, 2015, additional layoffs of 380 jobs from production, editorial, sales, and administrative roles in Toronto and Montreal were revealed. On November 17, 2015, further cuts were made, which included high-profile on-air talent from radio and television properties in Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver.
On November 20, 2015, Corus announced that it would wind down the operation of Movie Central, a premium television service that had been granted exclusivity in Western Canada, and cede its regional monopoly to Bell Media's The Movie Network, which was similarly restricted to Eastern Canada, allowing it to become available nationwide in 2016. Bell Media subsequently announced that it had acquired exclusive Canadian rights to all current HBO programming in Canada (rights previously shared with Corus due to its joint venture HBO Canada).
On January 6, 2016, iHeartMedia announced that it had partnered with Bell Media to launch a localized version of its online radio service iHeartRadio in Canada. On January 14, 2016, CraveTV became available as a standalone service without requiring an existing television subscription.
On January 31, 2017, Bell Media announced that it planned to perform another round of layoffs in 24 locations, citing various developments across Canada's broadcasting industry, as well as the impact of recent regulatory decisions (such as one that prevents the federal simsub rules from being used on the Super Bowl, whose Canadian broadcast rights are currently owned by Bell Media).
On February 27, 2017, Turcke left Bell to join the National Football League as president of digital media and NFL Network. She was succeeded as president by Randy Lennox. That month, Bell also announced that it had partnered with record executive Scott Borchetta to develop a new, international television format that would "uncover, develop, and promote pop culture's next musical superstars", and "leverage Bell Media's massive reach and extensive platforms to showcase musicians on the national and international stage." CTV officially announced the new series, The Launch, in April 2017.
On June 7, 2017, Wow Unlimited Media announced that it would acquire a specialty channel from the company (later revealed to be Comedy Gold) to form a new network targeting children and young adults, and provide children's television content for Bell's over-the-top ventures. As part of the purchase, BCE will take 3.4 million common voting shares in the company.
On January 23, 2018, Bell Media announced that it had reached licensing agreements with Starz Inc. and Lionsgate, and that TMN Encore would be rebranded under the Starz brand in 2019, featuring its programming.
Bell Media's largest division is Bell Media Television, which owns the following broadcast television assets:
Bell Media Television also owns 40 cable television specialty channels, frequently in partnership with U.S. companies which operate similar channels, and primarily concentrated in the following genres:
|Genre||Key channels||Foreign partner|
|Sports||TSN, TSN2, RDS, RDS2, RDS Info, others||ESPN (part-owner)|
|Music / youth / comedy (Much MTV Comedy Networks)||The Comedy Network, Much, MTV, MTV2, others||Viacom Media Networks (licensor – MTV channels only), Comedy Central (program supply - Much and The Comedy Network only)|
|Factual programming||Discovery Channel and various spinoff channels||Discovery Communications (part-owner or licensor)|
|News (CTV News)||Business News Network, CP24, CTV News Channel||n/a1|
|Science-fiction / technology||Space and Z||Syfy (program supply)|
|Entertainment||Bravo and E!||NBCUniversal (licensor)|
|Premium||HBO Canada, The Movie Network, Super Écran, others||HBO and Showtime (program supplies)|
|Other||Fashion Television, Canal D, Gusto others||n/a|
|Radio||iHeartRadio Platform||iHeartMedia (licensor), Premiere Networks (Program Supply For Orbyt Media)|
1No foreign co-owners or brand partners are involved with these channels. However (like most news organizations) CTV does rely on foreign news sources, such as ABC News and CNN, for some international coverage.
Through its Bell Media Radio division, the company is also Canada's largest private-sector radio broadcaster and Operates iHeartMedia's iHeartRadio Platform In Canada and Orbyt Media Radio Syndication (U.S Based Programing is supplied from iHeatMedia's Premiere Networks)
In addition, Bell Media owns television/radio production studios and websites associated with all of the above properties, as well as the TheLoop.ca (formerly Sympatico.ca) Internet portal previously operated through Bell Canada.
Bell Media has 3 locations:
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