Much (formerly and commonly known as MuchMusic) is a Canadian English language Category A specialty channel currently owned by Bell Media. The channel first launched on August 31, 1984, under the ownership of CHUM Limited, as one of the country's first specialty channels. Upon its launch, and for much of its life, the network primarily aired music programming, including blocks of music videos and original series focusing on musicians and artists.
In the years since, the channel has cancelled the majority of its original music programming due to budget and staffing cuts. The remaining music programming consists of music videos blocks aired in off-peak timeslots and occasional specials, such as the annual iHeartRadio Much Music Video Awards. Subsequently, the channel began to phase out the "MuchMusic" name as an on-air brand, and adopted its current name in 2013. Today, Much primarily broadcasts comedy programming aimed towards young adults.
MuchMusic was licensed on April 2, 1984 by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to CHUM/Citytv. It had faced competition from two other proposed services. One of them, CMTV Canadian Music Television, was deemed not to have sufficient financial resources. The third applicant was Rogers Radio Broadcasting. The CRTC believed that the Canadian market could only support one music video service and CHUM's proposal was chosen because of various commitments it had made and the company's expertise in music programming. The station was initially patterned on City Limits, an overnight weekend rock music show which had aired on sister station CITY-TV since 1983.
Shortly thereafter, MuchMusic was launched on August 31, 1984 as one of the first Canadian cable specialty channels. It was headed by the channel's founders John Martin and Moses Znaimer. The first video played on MuchMusic was "an early music-to-film synchronization short from the 1920s which featured Eubie Blake performing Snappy Songs." The first video made specifically for television air play was Rush's "The Enemy Within".
Making use of CHUM's facilities and production teams, the channel produced many specialty musical and variety programs, including the long-running dance program Electric Circus and the late 1980s game show Test Pattern, and Citytv programs such as City Limits and The New Music also became integral parts of the MuchMusic schedule.
The channel's format consisted primarily of an eight-hour daily block which mixed scheduled programs with VJ-hosted general "videoflow", which would then be repeated two more times to fill the 24-hour schedule. Some variance from this model was seen with the late-night programs City Limits and Too Much 4 Much, and live specials such as Intimate and Interactive.
In 1994, MuchMusic began distribution in the United States through Rainbow Program Holdings.
MuchMusic is well known for its annual music awards show that airs every Father's Day called the MuchMusic Video Awards (or MMVAs). It is anticipated and promoted for weeks before the night of the MMVAs.
MuchMusic has been credited with helping to foster a vibrant Canadian music scene because of the Canadian content broadcast rules which mandated native musical acts had a secure and prominent place on the channel's video schedule. As well, MuchMusic funds the creation of new Canadian music videos through MuchFACT and produces the popular album series Big Shiny Tunes and MuchDance.
In 2002, MuchMusic introduced promos that consisted of one of twelve images of a VJ posing in front of the network's logo, lasting for only 1/60th of a second each. The "quickies" were recognized with a Guinness World Record for the world's shortest television commercial.
In July 2006, Bell Globemedia (later renamed CTVglobemedia) announced that it would purchase CHUM for an estimated $1.7 billion CAD, including MuchMusic. The sale was subject to CRTC approval and was approved in June 2007, with the transaction completed on June 22, 2007 while the Citytv stations were sold to Rogers Media that same year. Since then, MuchMusic has aired a vast number of non-music related programs. Before those programs aired, Much Mega Hits was a prominent program that played various music videos based on singles.
Bell Canada gained control of MuchMusic through its takeover of CTVglobemedia on April 1, 2011, in effect changing the company's name to Bell Media. Shortly thereafter, MuchMusic received a new look and a new "Much" logo, while continuing to add non-music television series, mainly dramas and reality shows.
Since September 2013, the channel has been airing significantly more comedy programming targeting young adults during the late afternoon and primetime hours, much of it moved from The Comedy Network. Such shows included Comedy Central series (such as South Park, Tosh.0 and The Jeselnik Offensive), reruns of The Simpsons and The Cleveland Show, as well as Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and Conan. These changes came when Comedy's request for license amendments to reduce requirements for Canadian content and increase the amount of animated programming it could air was denied.
Most of the channel's previous non-music programming, such as the teen dramas Pretty Little Liars and Degrassi, moved to sister channels M3 (formerly MuchMoreMusic) and MTV respectively. At the same time the channel cut back further on original music-related programming apart from Video on Trial, The Wedge, countdowns, and other non-hosted blocks of music videos, with New.Music.Live. confirmed to have been cancelled and the likes of RapCity no longer appearing on Much's schedule. By the summer of 2014, amidst production and staffing cutbacks, the Countdown went on hiatus and Much's remaining original programs, including a revamped Video on Trial, were cancelled.
Meanwhile, in August, Much celebrated its 30th anniversary. A half-hour anniversary special, "30 Years of Much", aired on August 30, 2014 and was preceded by a full-day countdown of The 100 Greatest Videos Ever. Repeats of both the special and the countdown aired throughout the Labor Day weekend. On September 27, 2014, the Countdown returned with a revamped format.
On April 1, 2015, Much announced the launch of Much Digital Studios, a multi-channel network on YouTube. The network features content catered towards Much's demographic of 12-34s which will also be integrated into their on-air programming.
In late 2017, Much further cut back on music programming, reducing its music blocks to the morning hours and removing the Much Countdown from its schedule. In addition, it was announced in September 2017 that the MuchFACT program had been closed, as a result of the CRTC dropping the requirement for Bell Media to fund it. On October 11, 2017, Much premiered Sides*, a new talk show which discusses youth issues; it is streamed live on Twitter, and compiled into weekly televised editions on the channel. In November 2017, Much began to air a Friday-night block known as Icons, which features airings of music-related documentaries.
Much currently airs blocks of music videos in the mornings, with the remainder of its lineup devoted to comedy and pop culture-themed programming. Such programming includes first-run series (predominantly Comedy Central programs not shown by The Comedy Network), sitcoms, encore repeats of shows sourced from CTV and other sibling networks, and broadcasts of feature films.
In recent years, the popularity of MuchMusic has waned and the channel faces constant criticism that it focuses too much on "top 40" acts and programs that have nothing to do with music. A main point of criticism is not giving nearly enough time to smaller, independent and Canadian performers.
In 2010, CTV (the parent company of MuchMusic) was denied a request by the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to reduce the percentage of music video programming that the channel shows from 50 to 25 percent. CTV's second request to the CRTC to reduce and reposition its Canadian programming was also denied. For the reasoning behind these requests, CTV explained that "music videos no longer distinguish the service as they are readily available through other sources." This was met with mixed reaction by music fans and has also drawn the ire of notable music artists.
Much has also been the centre of controversy because of its leniency in censorship, sometimes leaving expletives uncensored from videos played on the network, in contrast to MTV, which often censors certain music videos for inappropriate content. However, some programs, due to their wider audience, are edited for content. As with MTV, the network also generated controversy by occasionally "banning" videos it deemed too racy or violent for broadcast. Unlike MTV however, MuchMusic broadcasts the controversial videos in a series of late night specials dubbed Too Much 4 Much, along with panel discussions on their content and arguments on if it should be banned or not.
MuchMusic was launched in part to capitalize on the success of MTV, an American cable music channel that had premiered a few years earlier. Although never an affiliate, Much over the years would often broadcast MTV-produced programming such as awards shows, concerts, reality series and other programs. MTV itself was not permitted in Canada because of Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) restrictions on format protection. However, no such restrictions exist in the United States, where CHUM attempted to compete with MTV through MuchUSA (now the unaffiliated Fuse).
Perhaps owing to this, MTV was unwilling to extend its relationship with MuchMusic longer than necessary, and has made two attempts to launch a competing MTV channel in Canada. The first attempt began in 2001 when MTV Canada (Now MTV2) was launched by Craig Media and Viacom. MTV Canada had an edge over MuchMusic in that it was licensed by the CRTC as a broadly based teen channel and could air programming from various categories and not just music-related programming. In 2004, MTV Canada's owners were bought by CHUM, allowing Viacom to exit its contract with Craig, and stripped MTV programming and branding from the channel forcing Viacom to find another partner to bring MTV to Canada.
The next attempt began in 2006 when Viacom partnered with CTV to rebrand its low-rated specialty channel talktv as MTV. With the new launch of MTV in March 2006, MuchMusic lost all rights to MTV programming from that point forward.Since the acquisition of CHUM Limited (which includes MuchMusic and MuchMore) by CTVglobemedia, MTV and MuchMusic have technically been under the same ownership since June 2007. CTVglobemedia has announced that it planned on maintaining all CHUM's specialty channels including both MuchMusic and MTV. Bell Media and Viacom have no plans to disaffiliate either channel from its programming and/or branding. In fact, MuchMusic and MTV have even begun cross-promoting each other's programs (e.g., MuchMusic airing a promo for MTV's The Hills).
Until the Fall of 2013, Much has premiered many of MTV's scripted series. The channel continues to air these programs in reruns.
Much Digital Studios announced its first ever original series Dan For a Week on March 7, 2017, produced by Bell Media and hosted by The Danocracy.
With the success of MuchMusic, several spinoff channels have been launched within Canada and around the world, including:
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On June 1, 2011, MuchMusic launched a high definition simulcast feed called Much HD. It is currently available on Bell Satellite TV, Bell Fibe TV, EastLink, SaskTel Max, Optik TV, Rogers Cable, Shaw Cable and Videotron.
Several individuals have served as MuchMusic's on-air hosts, or video jockeys ("VJs"). A number of notable Canadian and American television personalities either began their careers at MuchMusic or spent time there. Among these are J.D. Roberts who, under the name John Roberts, is a national correspondent for Fox News; Christopher Ward, a noted songwriter and producer who collaborated musically with Mike Myers on the Austin Powers movies; Sook-Yin Lee, now a noted CBC Radio host and actress; Terry David Mulligan, a prolific film and TV character actor; actress Amanda Walsh; Erica Ehm, who became a noted songwriter after leaving Much; and George Stroumboulopoulos, who became a television personality on CBC, U.S. network CNN and currently Sportsnet.
Some of the former Much VJs have moved onto other opportunities within Bell Media's entertainment brands like etalk and E!, but occasionally return for special Much events like the annual iHeartRadio Much Music Video Awards.
Every few years, when new video jockeys were needed, Much ran a "VJ Search" to pick one new VJ to join the channel. They would usually visit cities across Canada and pick people who appear to show potential through their audition. In earlier years, the VJ Search was usually a two-part show, but in 2006 it evolved into its own reality series called MuchMusic VJ Search. As a result of that series, Tim Deegan was chosen as a VJ. It was followed in 2009 by VJ 2.0, where the winner Liz Trinnear was also picked to join the channel. The most recent search, Much VJ Search, which Chloe Wilde won in 2013.
Despite the popularity of the VJ Search, some of the other VJs are still hired by Much directly, without being VJ Search contestants.