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Bell Media (Bell Média in French) is the mass media subsidiary of BCE (also known as Bell Canada Enterprises, the parent company of 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, 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.
Bell Canada has previously owned stakes in the company's predecessor, CTVglobemedia; it was originally formed when a consortium of Bell (80%) and The Woodbridge Company (owners of The Globe and Mail) bought CTV Inc. in 2000. In December 2005, Bell 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. 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.
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 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 around 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 will also be released.
Bell Media's largest division is Bell Media Television, which owns the following broadcast television assets:
- CTV, Canada's oldest, largest, and most-watched private terrestrial television|broadcast television network, including 21 owned and operated stations. 21 is CTV's official count, which includes all stations in the CTV Atlantic and CTV Northern Ontario groups, as well as the CFCN-TV semi-satellite in Lethbridge, but not any other semi-satellites.
- CTV Two a secondary television system which presently consists of five terrestrial television stations in Ontario, one in British Columbia as well as two cable-only channels, one in Alberta and the other in Atlantic Canada.
Bell Media Television also owns 44 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, Leafs TV, others||ESPN (part-owner), Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (part-owner)|
|Music / youth / comedy (Much MTV Comedy Networks)||The Comedy Network, M3, MuchMusic, MTV, MTV2, Juicebox, others||Viacom Media Networks (MTV channels only), Comedy Central (MuchMusic 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/A|
|Science-fiction / technology||Space and Ztélé||Syfy (program supply)|
|Entertainment||Bravo and E!||NBCUniversal (licensor)|
|Pay-per-view||Vu! (part-owner) and Viewers Choice (part-owner)||M/A|
|Premium||HBO Canada (Eastern), The Movie Network, Super Écran, others||HBO / Showtime] (program supply)|
|Other||Fashion Television, Canal D, others||N/A|