The channel launched as the Atlantic Satellite Network (or ASN) in 1983. Designated by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) as a "satellite-to-cable television programming undertaking," it is essentially a local television station without any broadcast transmitters. In other words, it is available in the region on basic cable television, and indeed throughout Canada on many digital cable systems and satellite television, but not over the air. Although the channel does not have mandatory cable carriage rights, nearly all cable systems in the region offer it. Nonetheless, it has full simultaneous substitution rights in the Atlantic provinces, whereas most non-broadcast channels do not.
Prior to fall 2008, the channel had received much of its programming from CHUM's Citytv and A-Channel (now A) systems, which did not operate in the region; beginning in the early 2000s, timeshifted CTV programs often aired on the channel as well. CTV acquired CHUM (excluding Citytv) in 2007, and ASN merged with the relaunched A television system on August 11, 2008.
ASN launched in 1983, under the ownership of CHUM Limited, as a supplementary service to its ATV system of CTV affiliates (now known as CTV Atlantic). ASN initially aired Atlantic Pulse newscasts at alternate times to ATV's newscasts. Atlantic Pulse used ATV reporters, but different anchors and graphics, with a comparatively spartan set located across the newsroom from ATV's. ASN also carried alternative entertainment programming, much of it produced by or otherwise sourced from CHUM's Toronto station CITY-TV.
In 1997, as part of a multi-station trade between CHUM and Baton Broadcasting, ATV and ASN became Baton properties; ATV was integrated into the expanded CTV network, while ASN took over the few remaining CHUM programs from ATV. ASN remained, for all intents and purposes, the Citytv affiliate in Atlantic Canada, and until recently carried a similar mix of movies and series in primetime. However, by the mid-2000s, the amount of CHUM programming on the ASN schedule had in fact decreased, and CHUM-supplied soap operas and movies (aside from a handful of weekend timeslots) were no longer present.
Following the merger between CHUM and CTVglobemedia, it appeared likely that ASN would become the Citytv owned and operated station for Atlantic Canada. However, the merger was made conditional on the sale of Citytv to a third party (Rogers Communications); as such, ASN was integrated into A (formerly A-Channel), as of August 11, 2008.
While ATV aired some United States syndicated programming that was shown on Citytv in Toronto (e.g., Friends and Seinfeld repeats), ASN aired programs associated with CTV in the rest of the country, such as Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy! and Camilla Scott. ASN was also the original home of The Oprah Winfrey Show until it moved to ATV early in its run.
ASN had also aired selected CTV network programming, including sports coverage and Canadian Idol, which, until recently, would not otherwise be widely available in Newfoundland and Labrador as a result of the 2002 disaffiliation of CJON from CTV (in July 2006, CJON purchased rights to the remainder of the fourth season of Idol; the first three seasons aired exclusively on ASN). Since fall 2005, ASN had also carried same-night rebroadcasts of CTV programs on most nights at 11:00 p.m. AT (10:00 p.m. ET). This appeared to be for simultaneous substitution purposes; since 1997, CTV Atlantic has aired series from the final hour of U.S. primetime earlier in the evening in order to accommodate newscasts at 11:00 AT.
Since 1997, ASN's local programming has been cut back significantly. At its peak, Breakfast Television aired for two and a half hours daily; it now airs for 90 minutes. Also, while ASN still carried a noon newscast and an early-morning rebroadcast of CTV's Live at 5, both are branded as CTV News programs. As of mid-October 2005, ASN stopped carrying a late newscast, due to the additional CTV programming noted above.
Despite the then-pending CTVglobemedia/CHUM merger, CHUM content was actually lowered during the 2006-07 season compared to previous years, with other series from the CTV library — including repeats, "shelf" series like What About Brian, programming from MTV, and time shifted CTV programming for simsub purposes — making up the balance. The format of the channel's signature morning show Breakfast Television and its logo still resemble the standard Breakfast Television logo used by the Citytv stations.
Currently, A Atlantic carries a late local newscast (a rebroadcast of CTV Atlantic's late news at midnight), previously the rebroadcast was taken off the schedule in 2005 but has been brought back; as well as the aforementioned CTV News at Noon. At the present time, A Atlantic's morning program also retains the name Breakfast Television instead of A Morning, the name in use for all other A stations' similar morning shows.
The joint ownership of ATV and ASN was approved in 1983 without any restrictions on duplicated programming or news coverage between the two channels. This has been grandfathered into the CRTC's current policy of requiring such non-duplication conditions on "twinstick" stations in large markets.
Since the channel's inception, ASN/A Atlantic has not been permitted to solicit local advertising in the Halifax area, due to (in the CRTC's opinion) insufficient support for local advertising. As part of the approval for Rogers's request to remove the commercial blackouts in St. John's, the channel also agreed not to solicit local advertising in that area either. A Atlantic is permitted to solicit local advertising in the rest of Atlantic Canada, as well as regional and national advertising; moreover the ban on solicitation does not necessarily prevent the channel from accepting local ad sales from the aforementioned areas.