Classicomm, or Classic Communications Ltd, was founded in the late 1960s by John O. Graham and Stewart H. Coxford, who were granted a cable television (CATV) licence by the CRTC for Richmond Hill and several other small communities north of Toronto.
By the 1980s the cable system had acquired additional licences, and soon covered a geographic area taking in most of southern York Region. With Steeles Avenue as its border with Toronto the south, the cable system spanned the width of York Region from Markham in the east to Woodbridge in the west. Its coverage area stretched north to include the communities of Stouffville, King City, Kleinburg, Gormley and more.
Southern York Region experienced tremendous growth beginning around 1982, growth which continues to this day. During the period of 1986-1990 Classicomm was connecting up to 10,000 new subscribers each year, making it the fastest growing cable system of its day.
By the early 1990s cable television operators gradually came under increased pressure from satellite operators and local telephone companies, who sought to compete in the delivery of video and other data services. Cable TV operators, having a strategic advantage in network architecture, responded by beginning to invest heavily to make their systems two-way capable, in part through the use of fiber optic cables and optical transmission systems to allow the delivery of services such as video-on-demand, internet, and more.
But these significant changes away from traditional CATV services, and the requirement of heavy new investment, prompted the owners, who were approaching retirement age, to sell Classicomm to one of the multiple system operators (MSOs) in Canada. After much speculation, the business was sold in 1995 to Shaw Communications of Calgary, Alberta.
A few years later, Rogers Cable of Toronto and Shaw Cable rationalized their cable holdings in Canada, with Shaw consolidating in western Canada and Rogers in central and eastern Canada. This was facilitated by a multiple system 'swap', such that the Classicomm service area is now entirely part of Rogers Cable.
Classicomm, like most local cable TV providers, encouraged the community in which they were based in to join in. Community members could suggest new show ideas or get involved in shows currently on the air. Classicomm also offered free technical courses to all members of the community, allowing everyone from students to business executives a chance to learn how to operate television production equipment. After many hours of hands on training, these people were able to operate camera, audio and editing equipment, as well as being able to set up lighting for sets. This was a great opportunity for people to learn these skills, but also an excellent business decision for the cable company as they were able to fill hours of programming without having to spend more money on salaries.
Classicomm also had close relationships with high schools located in the Richmond Hill area. Schools such as Bayview Secondary School would put together variety and comedy shows, usually running live on Friday nights. These "Friday Night Live" shows ended up alternating weekly between schools like Thornlea Secondary School, creating a friendly on air battle between the schools.
Even within the schools, some students started creating their own comedy and variety shows. These shows were taped and shown during the week instead of live on Friday Nights. Several shows included BSTV, as show out of Bayview Secondary School with students John Horton, Russ Thompson and many others. Another ESP-TV, organized by John Evers and Craig Snow, brought together some very talented students to produce skits and spoof commercials. Many of these same people went on to create NOVA-TV, a comedy variety show that still has clips on YouTube.com today. Student actors, such as Steve Bevan, Glenn Seymour, Arlene Probert, Dave Thomas, Dave Nickle, Kerry Service, David Slonosky, Mark Tulloch and others joined John Evers in 1980 to create this masterpiece.