The Movie Network

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Not to be confused with the U.S. premium television service The Movie Channel.
The Movie Network
The Movie Network Logo.svg
The Movie Network logo
Launched February 1, 1983
Owned by Bell Media
Picture format 1080i (HDTV)
480i (SDTV)
Slogan Have It All
Country Canada
Language English
Broadcast area Eastern Canada
Headquarters Toronto, Ontario
Formerly called First Choice (1983–1984, 1989–1993)
First Choice Superchannel (1984–1989)
Sister channel(s) The Movie Network Encore
Website The Movie Network
Availability
Satellite
Bell TV 300-315 (SD)
1251-1259 / 836-840 (HD)
Shaw Direct 601-605 (SD)
282, 296 (HD)
Cable
EastLink 201-206[1]
Available on most other cable systems in Eastern Canada Consult your local cable provider for channel availability
IPTV
FibreOP 565-569 (SD)
572, 574, 588, 589 (HD)
Bell Fibe TV 300-303, 306 (SD)
1300, 1302, 1303, 1306 (HD)

The Movie Network is a Canadian English language Category A premium cable and satellite television channel that is owned by Bell Media. The service is licensed to operate east of the Ontario-Manitoba border, excluding the territories.

Although the channel's name implies that it focuses solely on theatrically released motion pictures, The Movie Network's programming also includes original and foreign television series, made-for-cable movies and documentaries, softcore pornographic films, boxing matches and occasional stand-up comedy and concert specials. The channel's name was formerly abbreviated to TMN, which remains a common informal name and is therefore used below for brevity.

The Movie Network is carried by various Canadian cable and satellite television providers in Eastern Canada including Bell TV, Shaw Direct, Rogers Digital Cable, Vidéotron, EastLink, Cogeco, Seaside Communications and other providers. Its programming is similar to that of Movie Central, a separately-owned premium service that is available only in Western Canada, in areas located west of the Ontario-Manitoba border.

History[edit]

Development[edit]

First Choice logo, used from 1983 to 1984 and 1989 to 1992. From 1984 to 1989, the service used a variant of Superchannel's star logo.
Logo used in January 1993 as the service transitioned to using The Movie Network as its primary name. This logo was short-lived; by early 1994 it had been replaced with the first in a succession of "TMN" logos used until 2004.

In 1976, Communications Minister Jeanne Sauvé was quoted as saying "(Canadian) pay television is inevitable". During the 1970s when premium television service HBO and the then up-and-coming Atlanta, Georgia superstation WTBS (now WPCH-TV) became available via satellite in North America, some Canadians who were living in underserved rural areas, wanted access to these services. The Saskatchewan government together with Cable Regina (later Access Communications) set up a provincial pay television network called Teletheatre in 1979.

Growth of grey market television receive-only dishes by 1980 led the Canadian government under the administration of Pierre Trudeau to allow for pay television in Canada, and that there would be hearings to licence pay television networks in Canada. In September 1981, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) held a hearing in Hull, Quebec to license Canada's first pay television networks. There were more than 24 applicants to start such services.

When First Choice made its application to the CRTC in September 1981, the individuals and companies were part of the proposed channel included Donald Sobey (of the Sobeys supermarket chain), J. R. McCaig, Norman Keevil, Royfund Equity Ltd. (a mutual fund division of the Royal Bank of Canada), AGF Management Ltd. and Manufacturers Life Insurance Co. Together, they had $19 million in equity financing and proposed to spend $310.4 million over five years on Canadian television production. Estimated profit (over five years) would be $3.1 million. A pay television licence was issued by the CRTC to "First Choice Canadian Communications Corp." on March 18, 1982.

When First Choice applied to the CRTC, it estimated that to program major American movies, entertainment specials and Canadian movies and specials, pay for satellite time, and marketing of the channel, it could sell it to the cable companies at a wholesale rate of $7.50 each month. However, by the time the channel launched, and providers received their revenue from the pay television services, the retail cost of First Choice jumped significantly to $15.95.

Launch and evolution[edit]

When First Choice, as TMN was then known as, was launched on February 1, 1983, it operated as a national premium service; the network's original slogan was "Look Out for Number One! Look Out for First Choice!" The network inaugurated programming with a two-hour promotional reel announcing the programming that First Choice would carry, followed by a replay of The Who's farewell tour concert special; the airing of The Who concert which had been aired live on other channels in Canada the year before, as well as the two-hour promotional ad had several critics wondering about the channel's claims that it would be commercial-free and not play reruns. These programs were followed by first movie ever to be broadcast on First Choice, For Your Eyes Only.

At 10 a.m. Eastern/7 a.m. Pacific Time that day, First Choice aired Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope and continued to replay the film every other day for eight hours. The channel offered its programming for free for 14 days starting with the channel's first day of operation, before it was scrambled, except to those subscribers who wanted to pay the extra fee to continue receiving the channel. Before the advent of stereo television and home theatre systems, subscribers who paid for cable FM service could receive a stereo feed of First Choice. The channel's first president was Donald MacPherson, who departed in 1984 and was succeeded by Harold Greenberg, who remained president of the network until 1996. During its first year, First Choice aired a two-hour block of programming from the American adult-oriented pay service The Playboy Channel (now Playboy TV) as part of a late night programming block on Fridays. The broadcast of these softcore pornographic programs resulted in opposition from many domestic feminist groups.[citation needed]

The "TMN" logo (seen here in black-and-white but normally rendered in a dark red on-air), as it was used from Spring 1996 to March 2001.

After a disappointing run for pay services in general, the industry was restructured and First Choice's service area was restricted to Canadian provinces east of the Ontario-Manitoba border, with competitor Superchannel (now Movie Central) taking territorial rights to the west of that border. Both services used the First Choice-Superchannel name from 1984 to 1988, before they were split again in September 1988. Beginning in 1984 (but particularly after the split from Superchannel), First Choice also made use of the slogan "The Movie Network";[2] this became the name of the channel itself in 1993. In 1993, First Choice and Super Écran was acquired by Astral Communications (later Astral Media).

First Choice was originally granted a bilingual licence; it also operated a 24-hour French-language channel under the same licence, which was called Premier Choix. In early 1984, that service was merged with another Quebec-based pay-television network, TVEC, to form Super Écran, which continues to exist today.[3] On October 1, 1994, The Movie Network launched a companion film service, TMN Moviepix (the channel would undergo two renamings – first to Moviepix in 1996 and then Mpix in 2001 – before eventually becoming The Movie Network Encore on September 18, 2012[4]).

On March 4, 2013, the Competition Bureau approved the takeover of Astral Media by Bell Media.[5] Bell filed a new application for the proposed takeover with the CRTC on March 6, 2013;[6] the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approved the merger on June 27, 2013,[7] effectively turning over control of The Movie Network and The Movie Network Encore to Bell.

Channels[edit]

Broadcast area (in green) for The Movie Network.

List of channels[edit]

Depending on the service provider, The Movie Network provides up to twelve multiplex channels – six 24-hour multiplex channels; one of which (HBO Canada) is also available on a two-hour delay, and all are simulcast in both standard definition and high definition – as well as a subscription video-on-demand service (The Movie Network OnDemand). TMN broadcasts its primary and multiplex channels on an Eastern Time Zone schedule. Because The Movie Network operates a singular feed and its license is restricted to broadcast solely in a geographical area covered by the Eastern, Atlantic, and Newfoundland time zones, this results in the difference in local airtimes for a particular movie or program between two geographic locations being 90 minutes at most. TMN is the only general-interest pay television service in Canada that does not utilize a numbering system to identify its multiplex channels (which The Movie Network Encore, Movie Central, Super Écran and Super Channel use), instead using different names for each channel.

The premium classic film service The Movie Network Encore, which is also owned by Bell Media and shares the TMN branding, operates as a separate service under a separate licence – and subscribers to one of the two services do not necessarily have to subscribe to the other. However, TMN Encore is very frequently sold together in a package with The Movie Network.[8] Programs broadcast on TMN are rated according to the Ontario Film Review Board.

Channel Description and programming
The Movie Network
(abbreviated on-air as M)
The main "flagship" channel; The Movie Network offers films, documentaries and television series including content from the American pay service Showtime, along with Canadian programming.
MFun! This channel airs comedic and light-hearted films, specials and series.
MFest This channel focuses on independent and foreign films.
MExcess This channel offers action and adventure films, television series and late-night softcore pornographic film content.
HBO Canada This channel, to which Bell Media owns the territorial distribution rights for Eastern Canada, offers original programming sourced mainly from American premium services HBO and Cinemax. Some providers also provide the Mountain Time Zone feed of HBO Canada (operating on a two-hour timeshift from the Eastern Time Zone) originated by Movie Central, which is branded on TMN's website as HBO Canada 2.

HBO Canada[edit]

On September 22, 2008, both TMN and Movie Central announced that the two services would jointly begin offering a dedicated HBO multiplex channel (available in both standard definition and high definition), called "HBO Canada", on October 30. For TMN subscribers, HBO Canada replaced MMore and MMore HD. For Movie Central subscribers, HBO Canada replaced Movie Central 4 and Movie Central 1 HD. The channel is available at no additional charge to TMN/Movie Central subscribers and, moreover, is not available on a standalone basis.

Logo of HBO Canada.

The channel focuses on programming from the U.S. premium service HBO and its sister network Cinemax, including several original series from the two channels, specials and sporting events not previously available in Canada; however, some programs that have aired on HBO Canada previously have actually aired in the United States on HBO's competitor Showtime. A selection of Canadian films and series also airs to satisfy Canadian content requirements.[9] HBO programming now airs solely on HBO Canada, as opposed to any of the other TMN/Movie Central multiplex channels.

The HBO Canada schedule is common to both services, with the exception of timeshifting for the Eastern (TMN) and Mountain (MC) time zones. Although essentially operating as a joint venture of Bell and Movie Central's parent company Corus Entertainment, the east and west feeds are technically separate channels wholly owned by the parent company of the applicable regional service. In any event, HBO's parent company Time Warner is not a shareholder, and only licenses the name, logo and programming to Bell and Corus. Unlike the other multiplex channels offered by The Movie Network and Movie Central, both the standard-definition and high-definition HBO Canada feeds (East/West) are available nationally to those television providers who wish to carry them.

Other services[edit]

The Movie Network HD[edit]

The Movie Network HD is a high definition simulcast feed of The Movie Network that broadcasts in the 1080i resolution format. In addition to its main channel, The Movie Network also operates high definition simulcast feeds of its three TMN-branded multiplex channels and HBO Canada. The Movie Network launched its HD feed in May 2005. HBO Canada began broadcasting in high definition on October 30, 2008, becoming the first TMN multiplex channel to launch its own HD simulcast feeds; followed by MFun and MExcess in 2010. The remaining TMN multiplex channel, MFest, launched its HD simulcast feed on September 18, 2012.[4]

The Movie Network OnDemand[edit]

The Movie Network operates a subscription video-on-demand television service called The Movie Network OnDemand, which is available at no additional charge to new and existing subscribers of The Movie Network. Content featured on the service includes feature films, television series from TMN and outside distributors, and specials. HBO Canada operates a separate SVOD service, HBO Canada On Demand, providing feature films along with series content from American premium service HBO; it is also available to subscribers of TMN on most providers at no additional cost. The rotating program selections on The Movie Network OnDemand and HBO Canada On Demand incorporates select new titles that are added each Friday, alongside existing program titles held over from the previous one to two weeks.

The Movie Network GO[edit]

On February 27, 2013, The Movie Network launched The Movie Network GO (or TMN GO), a website and mobile app for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch, which features 1,500 hours of program content available for streaming in standard or high definition. Content featured on the service includes original programming produced domestically by TMN and acquired from U.S. pay services HBO, Cinemax, Showtime and Starz, along with movies, comedy specials, documentaries and sports programming.[10] The Movie Network GO is currently available to TMN subscribers of Bell TV, Bell Fibe TV, Cogeco Cable and Rogers Cable.[10]

Movie Entertainment[edit]

Movie Entertainment, previously titled Feature, is The Movie Network's monthly in-house magazine for subscribers of the channel, which has been published since June 1990 by Astral (now Bell) subsidiary Feature Publishing. Prior to 1990, subscribers received PrimeTime magazine, a similar publication originated by Superchannel (now Movie Central).

The magazine contains monthly listings for The Movie Network (including HBO Canada) and TMN Encore, as well as various other features related to that month's TMN programming and the entertainment industry in general.[11] With most service providers, Movie Entertainment is automatically mailed to TMN subscribers, though subscribers may opt-out, in some cases resulting in a monthly savings of C$2, by contacting their provider. Conversely, some service providers (including Shaw Direct) require subscribers to opt-in (for the same $2 charge) if they wish to receive the magazine.

Programming[edit]

The Movie Network has distribution agreements for original programming produced and owned by the American pay networks HBO and Showtime. However, some of the original programming broadcast on the aforementioned U.S. channels is produced by other studios, and in many of these cases the Canadian broadcast rights are held by other channels (for example, the Showtime series Homeland is not covered under TMN's output deal with Showtime; instead it is broadcast in Canada by Super Channel, which has its own output deal with the producing studio's parent company 20th Century Fox).

Before other Canadian specialty networks like TSN and MuchMusic were licensed, First Choice prominently offered commercial-free professional sporting and concert events. Sports events featured on the channel came from such distributors as ESPN, USA Network and HBO.

Movie library[edit]

As of August 2013, The Movie Network maintains exclusive first-run film licensing agreements with domestically-based Alliance Films, and American film studios such as Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (including Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Marvel Studios, Disneynature and Touchstone Pictures), Sony Pictures Entertainment (including Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures Classics, Screen Gems and TriStar Pictures), Universal Pictures (including Universal Animation Studios, Working Title Films, Illumination Entertainment and Focus Features) and Warner Bros. Entertainment (including Warner Bros. Animation, New Line Cinema and Castle Rock Entertainment).

List of programs broadcast by The Movie Network[edit]

Original programming[edit]

Acquired programming[edit]

Programs acquired from HBO (U.S.)[edit]
Programs acquired from Showtime (U.S.)[edit]
Other acquired programs[edit]

Duopoly issue[edit]

For many years, the de facto twin regional monopolies of The Movie Network and Movie Central have been criticised. At the time, no other similar premium services had broadcast within Canada. Critics argued that this limited competition and consumer choice, while proponents said that there was very little in content or functionality that was not already offered by the existing services.

In July 2005, the CRTC, the Canadian federal broadcast regulator, announced that public hearings would begin on October 24 of that year on four applications for new national pay television licences from different groups. Each applicant clained that they would commit to invest and develop more Canadian-produced programming content. On May 18, 2006, the CRTC announced that had accepted an application by Allarco Entertainment, while the other three were rejected.[12] This approved application effectively ended The Movie Network/Movie Central duopoly in Canada. On November 2, 2007, the new service was launched as Super Channel.

References[edit]

  • Westell, Dan. "Pay-TV: Visions of riches lure big bidders", Globe and Mail, September 26, 1981

External links[edit]