E! is a secondary service parallel to Canwest's larger Global Television Network. It formerly aired "leftover" foreign programs that could not fit on Global's primetime schedule. Until fall 2007, the system was known as CH; the change in name coincided with the acquisition of various programming rights from the American-based E!: Entertainment Television, which now supplies a significant portion of the Canadian system's schedule.
The CH system formed in early 2001 after Canwest purchased most of the initial stations (previously owned by Western International Communications) and rebranded them as "CH"; many of the stations had previously been affiliates of other networks. Over the years, WIC had formed various types of "twinsticks", or ownership of two stations serving one market, specifically in the B.C. Lower Mainland, Alberta, Montreal, and Kelowna markets. The second stations were, respectively, CHEK, CKRD, CJNT, and CHBC. However, WIC was an ownership group, and not a network unto itself. The company was rarely able to co-ordinate the programming of its first-string stations, much less the second-string outlets, due to the stations' different network affiliations.
Despite strong opposition from competitors and advocacy groups, Canwest was allowed to keep all of the WIC stations save CFCF in Montreal. By promising to continue to support the "underserved" communities these stations were originally intended to serve – support which, in Canwest's view, no competing broadcaster could provide – it was able to maintain the B.C. and Alberta twinsticks, re-align CJNT with CKMI, and most importantly secure a new twinstick in the major market of Ontario with both its own CIII and WIC's independent station CHCH.
CHCH was the first to adopt the CH brand in February 2001, followed by CHEK (newly disaffiliated from CTV) and multicultural station CJNT that September. CKRD joined in 2005 after disaffiliating from the CBC, and changed its call letters to CHCA in the process. All four cross-promote heavily with the local Global stations.
Kelowna's CHBC and Kamloops' CFJC disaffiliated from the CBC in February 2006 and joined CH; although CFJC was not owned by Canwest, the joint sales agreement between the two stations necessitated CFJC's affiliation switch. Both CHBC and CFJC maintained their own local identities during their times as CH stations. (CHBC adopted the E! branding on the same day as the other Canwest-owned CH stations.)
While CH briefly used the slogan "Closer to Home" when it launched, the letters "CH" were derived from the call sign of flagship CHCH, which Global had promised to re-focus on local programming after the station's traditional audience was turned off by the ONtv era. CJNT in Montreal referred to the initials as Canal Horizon, or CH Horizon, until 2002.
Content from the American E! network started to air throughout the system's daytime, late night, and weekend schedule upon its rebrand on September 7, 2007; this includes Canadian-produced series aired on E! channels internationally. E! programming had previously aired on Star! until the launch of E! in Canada. As a result of this change, E! programming no longer airs nationwide (depending on service provider). Primetime programming continues to be sourced primarily from the major U.S. broadcast networks. Local programs continue under the branding of each station's call sign (e.g. "CHCH News" in Hamilton; "CJNT Montreal" for multicultural programming on the Montreal station).
On April 18, 2008, Canwest launched an high definition (HD) simulcast of its CHCH affiliate called E! HD.
All E! O&O stations display an E! logo on the lower right corner of the TV screen during non-local programming; the stations' callsigns are used during local news and regional programming.
Pattison announced in September 2007 that its two remaining CBC affiliates, CKPG-TV and CHAT-TV, would drop their current affiliation in favour of programming from Canwest effective fall 2008. CKPG became an E! affiliate due to the presence of Global BC; CHAT joined the E! network in September 2008.
Many Global stations in non-E! markets, plus other stations not owned by Canwest, also broadcast programs usually seen on the E! system, mainly CJON, private CBC affiliates such as CHEX and CKWS, and the Thunder Bay Television twinstick of CKPR and CHFD.