Canadian TV stations change hands

Loss-making local stations begin switchover

Canadian E! stations will be rebranded

TORONTO -- After a recent fire sale of loss-making local TV stations during the economic downturn, Canadian TV viewers on Monday woke up to the beginnings of an industrywide switchover.

The upheaval began in Hamilton, Ontario, where viewers of CHCH-TV saw their usual American-originating gossip shows from E! Entertainment Networks replaced with a marathon screening of Sylvester Stallone's "Rocky" movies to signal indie broadcaster Channel Zero has acquired the TV station from former owner Canwest Global Communications Corp.

And Montreal's CJNT-TV station, which Channel Zero picked up along with CHCH-TV for a combined price tag of $12, has started airing foreign music videos and movies to replace U.S. series like "Deal or No Deal" and "That '70s Show" as part of its ethnic programming format.

As Canwest Global's E!-branded network is disconnected, separate local TV stations in Red Deer, Alberta, and Victoria, British Columbia, are set to go dark at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday as those stations failed to find recent buyers before their TV licenses expire on Tuesday.

And Kelowna, British Columbia, station CHBC-TV on Monday began broadcasting as an affiliate of CanWest Global's Global Television network.

As Canwest Global sheds TV stations to lower costs, the broadcaster also secured Friday yet another extension from U.S. bond-holders and senior lenders as it continues to talks to convert debt to equity to stave off bankruptcy protection.

Elsewhere, rival CTV on Monday began to rebroadcast its A Channel-branded TV station in Wingham, Ontario, with the nearby A Channel London signal, again as a measure to stem broadcast losses during the current TV ad slump.

And indie broadcaster Bluepoint Investment Corp. is awaiting regulatory approval for the $1 purchase of the A-Channel outlet in Brandon, Manitoba, CKX-TV, before it switches its format from an affiliate of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. to target a female demo by day and a male demo in primetime.