Bell Media to rebrand A channels as CTV Two

The troubled network will get a new look, and new programming strategy, with seven US simulcasts set for fall.

Bell Media is breathing new life into its loss-making A channel by rebranding it CTV Two starting this fall. 

The secondary network, threatened with closure during the 2009 TV ad industry downturn, will also launch in high definition in markets serving Vancouver, Toronto, southwestern Ontario, Ottawa and Atlantic Canada.

Bell Media said CTV Two will be available to 89% of viewers in English Canada.

The revamp includes converting A News outlets to CTV News, and seven new US simulcast series for fall 2011 to be unveiled Thursday at Bell Media’s upfront presentation in Toronto.

“As we stated to the CRTC, we are committed to the viability of the A stations,” Bell Media president Kevin Crull said Monday in a statement. “We are extending CTV, Canada’s strongest television brand, to our second network, so that these channels can resonate deeper with audiences, advertisers and the communities they serve,” he added.

The unveiling of the CTV Two network by Bell Media came on the same day rival Rogers Media is to unveil the fall 2011 schedule for its Citytv stations.

“A [channels] delivered nearly 40 broadcasts with more than one million viewers this season, led by top 20 programs such as American Idol and Dancing With the Stars, compared to just 20 for Citytv,” Bell Media insisted Monday with an eye to its new competition.

The CTV Two refurbishment plans include adding a re-broadcast transmitter in southern Ontario in 2012. 

Sensitive to CRTC concerns about media concentration, Bell Media said the CTV news-gathering teams will retain editorial independence.

 “We hope that under the CTV News banner, these local stations will ultimately be able to survive on their own,” CTV News president Wendy Freeman said in her own statement, alluding to the unstable financial state the A channel network has long operated under.

From Playback Daily