There has never been a full name for the initals "CTV". However, many people take them to mean "Canadian Television", which was used in a promotional campaign by the network in the late 1990s.
The eight winners, in order of their first sign-on, were:
The first seven stations were privately owned; the Edmonton station was a CBC O&O. One of the unsuccessful applicants for the Toronto licence, Spence Caldwell, immediately tried to form a network to link the seven private "second" stations plus CFRN-TV in Edmonton, which was due to lose its CBC affiliation when CBXT signed on. The seven private stations countered by forming the Independent Television Organization (ITO). In early 1961, John Bassett, owner of CFTO, won the broadcast rights to the Canadian Football League Eastern Conference. He needed a network in order to broadcast the games. After some wrangling with Bassett and the BBG, Caldwell finally had his network. The Canadian Television Network (CTN) launched on October 1, 1961; composed of the seven ITO stations plus CFRN.
(In April 2008, local CTV and A-Channel stations across Canada aired special reports celebrating "50 years of local news". While several of the local stations that later joined CTV launched in the early 1950s (as CBC affiliates), neither the network nor any local CTV-owned station launched in 1958; indeed CTV has avoided making claims about the celebration being an "anniversary" of a specific event. The reports instead appear to be timed to a CRTC review of regulations for local TV stations.)
The CTV network's first night on-air began with Harry Rasky's promotional documentary on the new network. That was followed by a fall season preview program.
CTV's initial 1961–1962 season began with the following programs, five of which were Canadian productions:
At first, flagship CFTO was the only station that carried programming live. During CBC's off-hours, CTV used CBC's microwave system to send programming to the rest of the country on tape delay. Eventually, a second microwave channel opened up, enabling live programming from coast to coast.
The CBC had objected to the network's initial name, apparently claiming it had exclusive rights to the term "Canadian". The private network soon adopted an alternative, "CTV Television Network". Sources differ as to whether this occurred prior to the network launch or in fall 1962. The Globe and Mail referred to the network as CTV upon its 1961 debut.
The Caldwell-led management team immediately ran into financial trouble, and relations between the network and its stations were not smooth at first since CTV had essentially been the product of a forced marriage. For example, most of the rights to American programming rested with the ITO, not CTV. In many cases, CTV found itself competing with its own stations for the rights to programming.
By the mid-1970s, CTV had expanded its footprint across Canada, mostly by twinstick arrangements in smaller cities and with CBC affiliates switching to CTV once the CBC opened its own stations or added rebroadcasters of nearby O&O stations. In a unique twist, the original Saskatchewan affiliate, CHAB/CHRE, was bought by the CBC in 1968 (and eventually recalled CBKT), allowing Regina's original station, CKCK-TV, to join CTV. In 1994, the CTV cooperative became a corporation.
CTV made a name for itself in news coverage when it convinced star CBC news anchor Lloyd Robertson to switch networks in 1976. Robertson has been the network's main anchorman ever since. The network also has the country's longest-running national morning news show, Canada AM. Its weekly newsmagazine series, W-FIVE has been a fixture on the network since 1966, predating the similar American program 60 Minutes by two years.
In the late 1970s, CTV often bought rights to pop and rock songs to serve as theme music for its programming, rather than commissioning original themes. Most notably, W5 used an instrumental portion of Supertramp's "Fool's Overture", Canada AM used The Moody Blues' "Ride My See-Saw", and the game show Definition used Quincy Jones' "Soul Bossa Nova".
In the mid-1980s, Baton Broadcasting, owners of flagship CFTO in Toronto, began a drive to take over CTV by buying as many affiliates as possible. It had already bought CFQC-TV in Saskatoon in 1971. Baton purchased the following stations between 1986 and 1990:
One caveat, however, was the "one owner, one vote" provision of the cooperative's bylaws. Any acquisition of one station by an existing station owner triggered an automatic redistribution of the acquired station's shares among the other owners. As a result, even though it owned 11 of CTV's 24 affiliates, Baton only had one vote out of eight. Nor were there any retroactive changes when CTV was restructured in 1994 (although Newfoundland Broadcasting, owner of CJON, decided to effectively relinquish its vote, reducing the number of votes to seven).
In 1996, Baton acquired CFCN from Rogers Communications. Significantly, Baton also acquired Rogers' CTV vote. It also started a joint venture with Electrohome, owner of CFRN and CKCO. Electrohome allowed Baton to control its vote. The following year, Baton acquired both Electrohome's share of the joint venture and CHUM Limited's CTV-affiliated system in the Maritimes, ATV. This gave Baton controlling interest in the network, triggering a put option allowing the remaining affiliates to sell their CTV shares without selling their stations, which they did. Baton was now full owner of the CTV network and immediately began plastering the CTV brand across its stations, even on non-network programming, and dropped its secondary Baton Broadcast System (BBS) brand. The company changed its name to CTV Inc. in 1998, and eventually acquired two of the final three large-market stations, CKY and CFCF. (It replaced the third, CHAN, as discussed below.)
CTV has legally been a "television service" in the eyes of the CRTC since 2000, when it allowed its network licence to expire. CBC, Radio-Canada, TVA and Aboriginal Peoples Television Network are the only official television networks in Canada.
CTV lost significant coverage in British Columbia and Newfoundland at the beginning of the 21st century, starting with a major TV realignment in Vancouver. In 2000, CanWest Global bought the television stations of Western International Communications, which owned charter CTV affiliate CHAN in Vancouver and CHEK-TV in Victoria. A year later, after its CTV contract ran out, CanWest made CHAN the Global O&O for all of BC, taking advantage of CHAN's massive network of repeaters that cover 97% of the province. CTV shifted its programming to CIVT-TV, an independent station it already owned. Unlike CHAN, CIVT has only one transmitter covering the metropolitan areas of Vancouver and Victoria and has to rely on cable and satellite to reach the rest of the province. CIVT is not available or is carried on a higher channel number across the mountain time zone, where CTV relies on CFCN or CFRN as its main affiliates.
Meanwhile, in 2002, CJON in St. John's dropped its CTV affiliation after CTV attempted to alter its affiliation agreement in a way that Newfoundland Broadcasting found unfair. For 38 years, CJON had aired the base CTV schedule essentially for free since CTV paid it for the airtime. CJON then bought additional CTV programming and sold all advertising. However, CTV tried to make CJON pay for the base schedule as well, with no possibility of airtime payments. It also increased the fees for additional CTV programming beyond what CJON claimed it could pay. Newfoundland Broadcasting also didn't want to continue to carry CTV's national advertising during these programs. At the start of the 2002-03 season, CJON dropped nearly all CTV programming except for CTV's national newscasts; in exchange it provides news coverage of Newfoundland and Labrador events to CTV. In recent years, all of CTV's non-news programming has disappeared from the station. CTV does not currently have a primary affiliate in St. John's, restricting some original programming to satellite only.
CTV has attracted some controversy in the past because of cutbacks to its small-market stations. The four Maritime stations, known collectively as CTV Atlantic (then known as ATV), and the four Northern Ontario stations, known collectively as CTV Northern Ontario (then known as MCTV), each had their local news production cut back to one centrally-produced single newscast for each region, with only brief inserts for news of strictly local interest. This was a controversial move in all of the affected communities, especially in Northern Ontario where MCTV's newscasts were the only locally-oriented news programs in those markets. In the late 1990s, cuts were made to the news staff and productions at CTV's two small-market Saskatchewan stations, CICC-TV in Yorkton and CIPA-TV in Prince Albert. Today, the stations now simulcast supper-hour and late-night news from CKCK and CFQC respectively, placing local inserts into the newscasts.
In July 2006, CTV parent Bell Globemedia announced plans to acquire Citytv parent CHUM Limited, itself a former partner in CTV (via ATV), and presently one of Canada's largest broadcasters. While CTVglobemedia kept all of CHUM's radio stations along with the A-Channel television stations and all of CHUM's speciality channels, the Citytv stations were sold off as a sale required by the conditions the CRTC placed upon CTV when approving the CHUM purchase.
News programming consists of the nightly CTV National News, morning program Canada AM, local newscasts branded as CTV News and the newsmagazines W-Five and Question Period, which interviews politicians and recaps political events during the week.
As well, in recent years, CTV has purchased Canadian broadcast rights to a number of American cable series, such as The Sopranos, Nip/Tuck, Punk'd, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and The Osbournes. In many cases, CTV has been one of the few conventional broadcast networks in the world to air these series in prime time, which has attracted some controversy from Canadian media watchdogs and parents groups who object to the profanity, violence and sexual content of Nip/Tuck, The Sopranos and The Osbournes (which, unlike originating broadcaster MTV, CTV aired uncensored). It is also the first broadcast network to broadcast MTV programming live , starting with the MTV's New Year of Music special during New Year's 2005/2006.
In late 2003, CTV started broadcasting select American programmes in 16:9 (widescreen) HDTV. It later began airing Canadian programmes in this format, such as Degrassi. Currently only CFTO and CIVT have dedicated HDTV feeds (sometimes marketed as CTV HD East and West respectively), but both are available nationally via cable and satellite, and do not differ otherwise from their analog counterparts.
In early 2005, CTV was part of the consortium that won the Canadian broadcast rights to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, as well as the 2012 Summer Olympics. This was considered a serious coup, as the rival CBC had consistently won Olympic broadcast rights from the 1996 Summer Olympics through to the 2008 Summer Olympics. CTV and TQS will be the primary broadcasters; TSN, RDS and Rogers Sportsnet will provide supplementary coverage. The broadcast headquarters for CTV's coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics is likely to be CTV Vancouver Bureau, with CTV alone promising 22 hours per day during the 2010 Olympics. It is currently uncertain what CTV will do with its American programming during Olympic periods.
In June 2006, CTV and sister network TSN outbid the CBC for coverage of Canadian Curling Association events, although CTV is only expected to carry some championship-round action with TSN broadcasting most of the action.
On July 2, 2005, CTV broadcast 20 hours of the Live 8 concerts, which was watched by over 10.5 million people - nearly one-third the country's population - at some point during the day; the average audience, however, was much lower. According to at least one source, it was the most-watched program by this standard in Canadian history.
On September 21, 2006, CTV achieved notoriety for airing the second episode of the third season of Grey's Anatomy one week early, in place of the season premiere. The season premiere was aired in its entirety on September 28.
On May 22, 2007, it was announced that CTV had acquired the broadcast rights to the National Football League early-afternoon Sunday games, the full NFL Playoffs, and the Super Bowl, effective the 2007 NFL season . This ends a lengthy association between the NFL and Global Television Network. TSN, a sports channel which CTV owns, airs prime-time NFL games and produces the CTV broadcasts in tandem with CBS and FOX. However the only teams CTV can show as their main signature teams to broadcast are the Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, and Minnesota Vikings.
As of June 27, 2007, CTV and The Comedy Network have exclusive Canadian rights to the entire Comedy Central library of past and current programs on all electronic platforms, under a multi-year agreement with Viacom, expanding on past programming agreements between the two channels. Canadian users attempting to visit Comedy Central websites will also be redirected to TCN's website and vise versa for American users. The Canadian channel will keep its own brand name, but the agreement is otherwise very similar to the earlier CTV/Viacom deal for MTV in Canada.
As of mid-October 2005, all CTV-owned and operated stations have adopted a single on-air brand of CTV, rather than use their official callsigns or channel numbers on-air (although some stations, most notably CIVT, promote their cable channel number). When further differentiation is needed, for example during regional programming, the city or region they serve (eg. CTV Ottawa, CTV British Columbia) may be used as well. Under CRTC regulations, however, the callsign is still the station's legal name. This change is very similar to the British ITV's adoption of a single on-air network brand of ITV1 (region name).
The network's original logo was an oval-shaped letter "C", the inside shaped like a television tube. Contained within the C were the initials "CTV". In 1966, colour programming was ushered in with a new logo, depicting a red circle containing the initial "C", a blue square with "T", and a green inverted triangle with "V". This logo has been used, albeit with minor variations, ever since. For the 1967-68 season, the letters "CTV" were rounded and easier to see, with the "base/TV' graphic added later.
Between 1998-2001/2003-present, CTV uses the three colours of its logo to represent its different divisions. In network branding, the red ribbon and sphere represents entertainment, the blue ribbon and cube represents news, and the green ribbon and cone refers to sports.
Following the acquisition of TSN in 2001, sports programming on CTV adopted a variant of TSN's then-new ESPN-style branding, which was predominantly a darker red.