The beginnings of what was to become E! in Canada came about when, in July, CanWest Media Inc. received CRTC approval for the acquisition of the assets of Western International Communications Inc (WIC). These properties included several B.C. twin-stick CBC affiliates, and CHCH-TV Hamilton, Ontario, an independent station that had been launched in 1953, and that had been acquired by WIC from Maclean Hunter in 1991.
In February, CanWest rebranded CHCH simply as CH, and conferred the same brand on their stations in Victoria B.C. (CHEK-TV) and Montreal (CJNT-TV). The latter station used the letters CH to call itself Canal Horizon for the first year, but then reverted simply to the CH brand.
Global-owned CKRD-TV Red Deer, one of several former WIC “twin-stick” CBC affiliates that had disaffiliated from the CBC, changed its call-sign to CHCA, and was rebranded as the fourth CH station.
Another CanWest-owned former WIC twin-stick station, CHBC-TV Kelowna, disaffiliated from the CBC and joined the CH line-up. Jim Pattison’s CFJC-TV Kamloops, though not owned by Canwest, had a joint sales agreement with its Kelowna neighbour, and also disaffiliated to carry a significant amount of CH programming.
In April, CanWest MediaWorks announced the conclusion of an exclusive agreement with the U.S.-based E! Network satellite-to-cable entertainment program service, “…to license content and manage the E! brand in Canada…”, effective September 7th. Accordingly, the National Entertainment Network would be rebranded as E! Everything Entertainment in the fall while also taking advantage of the tremendous equity that the local station news identities had and thus would retain their heritage, “…..with a refreshed on-air image under the banner of their historical call letters…”. Previously some programming from E! USA had hitherto been seen on the Star! Channel in Canada.
In June, CanWest received CRTC approval to add new transmitters for CHCA-TV Red Deer in both Calgary and Edmonton, thus enabling the expansion of the E! signal into those cities as part of the basic cable package. On September 17th the E! network officially launched in both Calgary and Edmonton.
In February the CRTC approved Jim Pattison’s application to disaffiliate his CBC stations in Prince George B.C. (CKPG-TV) and Medicine Hat AB (CHAT-TV), and to accept a major package of E! programming from CanWest Media, effective September 1st.
In June, Canwest announced its 2008-09 schedules for the Global and E! Networks, the E! schedule showed that there was a commitment to making E! a viable destination by scheduling some key prime time US network series along with E! original programming to make this network a unique option for Canadian television viewers.
CanWest also made E! programming available to several private stations in non-competitive markets, including CJON-TV St Johns, NL and CKPR-TV/CHFD-TV Thunder Bay, ON.
In February, CanWest Global announced that they were seeking a buyer for E!, citing as reasons the tight economic environment and their desire to focus their efforts on “more profitable areas of return”. CEO Leonard Asper said that if a buyer could not be found within a few months, the E! stations might be closed down.
At CanWest’s presentation of their fall schedule on June 3rd, Executive Vice-President Content Barbara Williams advised, in response to a question, that CanWest executives had bought no new programming for the E Channel while on their recent visit to Los Angeles, and did not anticipate that they would be programming the E stations in the Fall. She would not comment as to whether there had been any firm offers for those stations.
On July 22nd, CanWest announced that effective September 1st, CHBC-TV would no longer be part of the E Channel group, but would be rebranded as a Global Network station. It became Global Okanagan. CanWest also announced with regret that there were “no viable options” for CHCA-TV Red Deer, and the station therefore closed down on August 31st.
E! ceased to exist as a station group as of August 31st 2009. On August 28th the CRTC had approved the acquisition of CHCH-TV, as well as CJNT-TV, by the Channel Zero group, through a numbered company, 2209005 Ontario Inc., and renewed the station’s licence through to August 31st 2016.
On September 4th, CanWest Global Communications Corp. announced that its subsidiary, Canwest Television Limited Partnership, had entered into an agreement to sell CHEK-TV in Victoria (“CHEK”) to a local investor group.