Canadian E! stations will be rebranded

CRTC clears Channel Zero for takeover this weekend

TORONTO -- The Canadian E! network, licensed by Comcast with the E! Entertainment brand name and U.S. programming, will fade to black to this weekend.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission on Friday gave the go-ahead for two of the original E!-branded TV stations, CHCH-TV in Hamilton and CJNT-TV in Montreal, to be acquired and rebranded by indie broadcaster Channel Zero.

The deal to acquire the stations for only $12 is expected to be completed late Friday, and Channel Zero will flick the switch on new channel formats at the Hamilton and Montreal stations at some point after midnight Monday.

Another E! station in Red Deer, Alberta, CHCA-TV, will sign off at midnight Monday, when the broadcast licenses for all the E! network stations expire, and Kelowna, British Columbia, station CHBC-TV will be rebranded by Canwest Global as one of its Global Television stations.

And the Jim Pattison Broadcast Group secured a new U.S. series pipeline from Rogers Broadcasting for three affiliate E!-branded TV stations -- CFJC-TV, CKPG-TV and CHAT-TV stations in western Canada -- starting Sept. 1 as part of a new output deal. Canwest Global in 2007 signed a multiyear program supply deal with the U.S.-based E! Entertainment Network to rebrand its secondary CH network.

The bet failed to pay off, however, as the Canadianized E! network ran into the current TV ad downturn, leading Canwest Global to phase out the loss-making secondary network and shift its E! Entertainment Network program pipeline to Global Television and its cable channels.

The end to the E! network up north also comes as parent Canwest Global on Friday faced yet another deadline in talks with U.S. bondholders and senior lenders to refinance its $4 billion debt load. The debt-laden broadcaster has received a series of extensions from the lenders as it attempts to stave off bankruptcy protection.