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Vrak
Final logo, 2016-2023
CountryCanada
Broadcast areaNationwide
HeadquartersMontreal, Quebec
Programming
Language(s)French
Picture format480i (SDTV)
1080i (HDTV)
Ownership
OwnerBell Media
Sister channelsNoovo
Z
Canal D
Canal Vie
Cinépop
MTV
MTV2
Much
History
LaunchedSeptember 1, 1988
ReplacedTVJQ (1982–1988)
ClosedOctober 1, 2023
Former namesCanal Famille (1988–2001)
Vrak.TV (2001–2014)

Vrak (stylized as VRΔK) was a Canadian French language specialty channel owned by Bell Media. The channel primarily broadcast live-action programming aimed at 13-to-35 age group audiences. Launched in 1988 as Le Canal Famille,[1] the channel ceased operations on October 1, 2023, due to declining viewership and it being deemed "outdated" by Bell Media.[2]

History

Background

TVJQ

The origins of the channel date back to 1975, when Télécâble Vidéotron, then established in Longueuil and serving the South Shore of Montreal, already distributed around thirty channels, accessible via a converter.[3] Subscribers had to call to request the broadcast of a video document which will be broadcast on one of the eight channels according to the theme (sports, socio-cultural leisure, senior citizens, students, children, etc.). In January 1980, Videotron acquired Cablevision Nationale, which served the east of Montreal, the cities of Quebec and Sherbrooke, among others. A few months later, the Cablevision Nationale network was upgraded to allow the distribution of thirty channels, while the Inter-vision consortium made up of different cable distributors from the south of the province, set up at the corner of Pie-IX boulevards. and Rosemont in Montreal under the name Cablespec, takes care of the production and broadcasting of eight specialized channels under the responsibility of Jacques Lasnier.[4] The eight channels would have been launched on Saturday, October 18, 1980.[5]

The channel, initially called Enfants et Jeunesse before adopting TVJQ [fr] ("Télévision des Jeunes du Québec") in May 1982, presented children's programs produced in Quebec for the most part as well as European, American and Japanese animation series, as much as possible without violence, seeking to eliminate gender discrimination. It was established and distributed by a subsidiary of Videotron.[6]

TVJQ was on the air daily from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Since 1979, Videotron subscribers could take turns enjoying a variety of interactive games starting at midnight (via a touchtone telephone), which occupied “channel 26” until the channel returned to the air. The games continued on Canal Famille until shortly after the launch of Vidéoway in September 1989. In the evenings from January 1983, educational and cultural programs aimed at adults were programmed.

From January 1982 to September 1985, the channel broadcast the show Radio-Vidéo, a block of video clips produced by Pierre Marchand, who in 1986 would become the creator of the MusiquePlus channel. Meanwhile, in October 1984, another block of music videos produced by MuchMusic was broadcast, a month after the channel's launch in Toronto. In March 1986, Videotron obtained a “broadcasting license for the operation, on an experimental basis and for a temporary period, of a cable television network in order to distribute by satellite to affiliated cable television companies in the province of Quebec the service of special French-language programming “Télé des Jeunes”.[7] This license allows Videotron to have its TVJQ channel carried over by other cable companies elsewhere.[8] Videotron thus becomes the first cable company in Canadian history to simultaneously be a producer of television content.[8] CF Cable TV offered Videotron's TVJQ channel from 1987.[9] When MusiquePlus was launched in September 1986, the version received via satellite of TVJQ became MusiquePlus after 8 p.m. with a four-hour live programming block followed overnight 'a rebroadcast or a block recorded during the afternoon.[10] On the Videotron side, MusiquePlus evening programming took the position of MuchMusic while cultural programs aimed at adults were still broadcast on TVJQ until midnight. Blocks of 30 minutes produced by MusiquePlus were added to TVJQ's programming, replacing those of MuchMusic.

In 1986, the channel's spokesperson was Gargouille, a cartoon character created by Tristan Demers,[11] who would get his own show.

In 1987, Videotron submitted a request to the CRTC to convert its channel TVJQ to a full-service channel while continuing to target young people.[12] On December 1, 1987, the CRTC approved the license application for Premier Choix: TVEC for Canal Famille, and consequently refused the license renewal application for TVJQ.[13][14] The same day, the license application from CHUM Limited and Radiomutuel for a dedicated MusiquePlus channel was approved.[15] TVJQ remained on the air until the arrival of Canal Famille.[16] TVJQ ceased operations on August 31, 1988.[17]

Le Canal Famille

The 1988–1995 logo of the channel as Le Canal Famille. A newer logo was used from 1995 to 2001 without the article in the name.
The 2001–2007 Vrak.TV logo, featuring the channel's mascot, Bibite.[18] The mascot was dropped in 2007, but a simplified variant of this logo was used until 2014.
The 2014 Vrak logo was used until 2016.

Licensed by the CRTC in 1987, Le Canal Famille was launched on September 1, 1988, as a replacement to TVJQ.[19] Le Canal Famille was created by Premier Choix TVEC which was already partially owned by Astral Media through its subsidiary Astral Bellevue Communications.[20][21]

Le Canal Famille, name translated as The Family Channel, which was the name of another Canadian youth channel that also began airing in September 1988 and itself owned at 50% by Astral Bellevue Communications.[22][21]

At launch, the channel carried a few original shows including La Garderie des amis, Hibou Chou Genou, Labo Labo, as well as Bibi and Geneviève when the chain closed at 6:30 p.m. and opened at 7 a.m. RAM joins the lineup in December. There were also some shows already broadcast on Super Écran such as Inspector Gadget and Bibifoc, dubbed Canadian shows, popular TVJQ series, some Japanese animated series and co-productions. The channel increased the number of its original productions in the following years.

The popularity of Videoway's interactive menus in the early 1990s prompted Super Écran to offer a second choice of films in the evening using Canal Famille after its closing at 7 p.m. After about twenty minutes of trailers and self-promotion of Super Écran, the channel becomes scrambled for the presentation of a film.

The apex of Canal Famille was between 1990 and 1996. The channel benefited from a fashion effect and produced several low-budget classics such as Fripe et Pouille, Les Zigotos, Sur la rue Tabaga and the most popular, Télé-Pirate which benefits from a weekly reach of 400,000 viewers.[23]

In 1994, Bibi and Geneviève moved to TQS. Canal Famille kept the reruns, but the competition block was exclusive to TQS.[24]

During the 1995-1996 season, Canal Famille changed its logo, attracted more young people on the air and suddenly targeted adolescents aged 12 to 17.[25] The channel aired Radio Enfer, the first Québecois sitcom for young people, and Le Studio, a rather avant-garde absurd sketch series directed by Bruno Blanchet. This momentum will be continued the following year with the addition of Goosebumps and Generation W.[23]

Shortly after the launch of Canal D (also owned by Premier Choix) in 1995, which offered some classic television series, Canal Famille similarly saw the addition of series to its programming such as Bewitched in the fall of 1995, Gilligan's Island in 1996, The Flying Nun in 1997 and Family Affair in 1998.

In September 1997, the Télétoon channel (of which Premier Choix is 50% owner) was launched, offering 24-hour programming focused on cartoons for several age groups. Canal Famille lost around half of its market share, reduced its number of original productions and filled its programming with series produced by Nickelodeon.

To counterattack Télétoon, Canal Famille broke from its "childcare" image and took a slightly more delinquent tangent. It now offered more audatious concepts like Turbulence Zone or Dans une galaxie près de chez vous.[26]

At the beginning of the 2000s, after a few acquisitions, Astral carried out an intra-company reorganization and stopped using “Premier Choix”. In the fall of 2000, Canal Famille offered Watership Down as the only new feature. As its programming was no longer renewed, children who grew up with the channel began to call it “Canal Reprise” due to the amount of reruns. Canal Famille's market shares among children aged 2 to 11 fell to 8.6% while they were around 25% before 1997.

To deal with the situation, Canal Famille decided to renew its image and 75% of its programming. On December 5, 2000, Astral announced that Canal Famille would change its name to Vrak.tv as of January 2, 2001, would offer 75% renewed programming overnight (50% new features, 25% new episodes) and would henceforth be in operation from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.[27] (instead of 7 p.m.), allowing the channel to offer more mature series for teenagers.[28]

The desire to create Vrak.TV from the ashes of Canal Famille will be a success. Audience ratings will have tripled in six months.[29]

VRAK

Canal Famille was replaced by VRAK.TV on January 2, 2001, keeping the same channel frequency and still owned by Astral Media.[30] The channel switched to an ad-supported format in 2006 to coincide with the renewal of license the launch of its high definition feed on October 30, 2006.

Vrak.TV was separated from its sister channels in 2013 due to the acquisition of Astral Media by Bell Media; Bell sold off Family Channel, the French version of Disney Junior, the English version of Disney Junior and Disney XD to DHX Media, and MusiMax and MusiquePlus to V Media Group.

Vrak.TV was simply renamed to just Vrak on August 25, 2014 and launched a new block, Vrak2, aimed at a teen audience.[31]

On September 12, 2016, Vrak changed its audience focus to the ages 13–35 group due to the success of its Vrak2 block.[32] Some series targeting its former audience focus moved to other stations.

Removal from Videotron, closure

On August 16, 2023, Vrak and Z were removed from Vidéotron, the company that created the original channel it was based on 41 years earlier, whilst Bell removed Yoopa from all of their TV services a day later. Yoopa is now scheduled to shut down on January 11, 2024, and will be replaced with a TV broadcast version of its parent company's QUB Radio channel.

Two days later on August 18, 2023, Bell Media announced that the channel would be closing on October 1, 2023, owing to "challenges" in the broadcasting sector, lack of viewers and regulatory affairs deemed "outdated" by Bell Media.[2] On September 25, the CRTC confirmed it had revoked Vrak's licence at the request of Bell Media.[33] On October 1, 2023 at midnight ET, the channel quietly shutdown without ceremony after an episode of Entre deux draps.

Programming

Since its creation, the channel had aired animated series, teen sitcoms and light-hearted dramas. Many of them are French dubs of English-language programs such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed, What I Like About You, Degrassi: The Next Generation, Gilmore Girls, One Tree Hill, The O.C., Life with Derek, Smallville, SpongeBob SquarePants, That '70s Show, 90210, Gossip Girl, and many others. It also aired programs from Disney Channel; due to the launch of La Chaîne Disney by Corus Entertainment, the last remaining Disney Channel show on the channel, Bonne chance Charlie' was removed from the schedule in September 2016. The channel also featured local Quebec French language productions, such as Il était une fois dans le trouble, Pin-Pon and Une grenade avec ça?. Other series that the channel popularized were Dans une galaxie près de chez vous and Radio Enfer. As of 2010, the channel had aired films weekly.

Initially, as required by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the channel carried no commercials until 2006.[34] However, it aired promotional messages, interstitial programs (such as help segments known as R-Force (pronounced like "Air Force")), and public service announcements instead. The channel aired commercials from 2006-2023 with the launch of its HD feed and license renewal. Its former English-language counterpart (Family Channel) continued to be commercial-free until November 2016.

Unlike the other specialty channels, Vrak was the only channel on the air daily from 6am to midnight. When the station was Le Canal Famille, the station would close down at 7pm (8pm on weekends), sharing time with the flagship Super Écran channel (then also owned by Astral and now sharing Bell Media ownership with Vrak). In 2001, when the channel was revamped as VRAK.TV, its hours were increased to 10 p.m. (Super Écran followed on most systems). Vrak's closedown time at midnight went into effect in mid-2005.

On September 12, 2016, due to the channel's changes in audience focus, its animation programming completely disappeared from the channel, eventually, they reappeared on the channel in January 2017, starting with Bob l'éponge. By May 2019, all animated and children's programming had left the network's schedule, with comedy following in May 2022; the network's final schedule exclusively consisted of dramas.

International distribution

See also

References

  1. ^ "Bell Media to shut down Vrak TV after Videotron ends its distribution | Montreal Gazette".
  2. ^ a b "Bell Media axes VRAK, the French-language youth TV channel based in Montreal". CBC News. August 18, 2023. Retrieved August 18, 2023.
  3. ^ Jean Forest (October 18, 1975). "Canaux multiples et option communautaire chez Télécâble Vidéotron". Télé-Presse. Vol. 91, no. 249. pp. 22–23, 37. ISSN 0317-9249.
  4. ^ Louise Cousineau (November 8, 1980). "Triple aubaine: 30 canaux, tarifs plus élevés et un convertisseur pour 21 jours". La Presse. Vol. 96, no. 263. p. C20. ISSN 0317-9249.
  5. ^ Gilles Constantineau (October 15, 1980). "Câblevision renaît samedi". Le Devoir. Vol. LXXI, no. 236. pp. 13 and 17.
  6. ^ "Une chaîne pour l 'enfance sans aucune publicité". Le Nouvelliste. Trois-Rivières. July 22, 1988. p. D11.
  7. ^ "Décision CRTC 86-214". CRTC. March 13, 1986.
  8. ^ a b "TVJQ, en attendant un "vrai" canal jeunesse". La Presse. Montreal. April 24, 1984. p. C1.
  9. ^ Pierre Roberge (September 16, 1987). "Cablespec lance la 2ème de son service Télé des Arts". Le Droit. Vol. 75, no. 143. Ottawa. p. 20.
  10. ^ "Décision CRTC 86-215". CRTC. March 13, 1986.
  11. ^ "Tristan Demers : « Je suis un communicateur de la BD. »". ActuaBD. August 15, 2010.
  12. ^ Bernard Descôteaux (July 16, 1987). "Canaux spécialisés : French opte pour le financement forcé". Le Devoir. Vol. LXXVIII, no. 161. Montreal. p. 2.
  13. ^ "Décision CRTC 87-906". CRTC. December 1, 1987.
  14. ^ Paul Cochon (December 1, 1987). "Quatre nouveaux canaux pour les téléspectateurs québécois". Le Devoir. Vol. LXXVIII, no. 277. p. 11.
  15. ^ "Décision CRTC 87-897". CRTC. December 1, 1987.
  16. ^ Pierre Roberge (February 8, 1988). "La chaîne "Télé des arts" de Vidéotron cesse de diffuser des documentaires". La Tribune. Vol. 78, no. 268. Sherbrooke. p. D7.
  17. ^ "Avis public CRTC 1988-14". La Presse. Vol. 104, no. 108. Montréal. February 8, 1988. pp. A12. ISSN 0317-9249.
  18. ^ "LE GROUPE DE RADIODIFFUSION ASTRAL INC. :: Quebec (Canada) :: OpenCorporates".
  19. ^ "CRTC Notice". Montreal Gazette. Montreal. February 8, 1988. p. A5.
  20. ^ Government of Canada, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) (January 24, 1984). "ARCHIVED - Acquisition of assets - First Choice Canadian Communications Corporation and Télévision de l'Est du Canada (TVEC) Inc". crtc.gc.ca.
  21. ^ a b "Astral Bellevue Pathe Inc., a producer of feature films and videotaped programs, has raised its stake in the company that wholly owns the First Choice pay-TV service". Toronto Star. Toronto. February 2, 1989. p. C7.
  22. ^ "ASTRAL BELLEVUE PATHE INC.: Astral sees steady growth as net more than doubles: [Weekly Edition]". Financial Post. Toronto. October 25, 1988. p. 25.
  23. ^ a b Josée Lapointe (September 30, 1996). "Canal Famille bat joyeusement la marche". Le Soleil. Vol. 100, no. 271. pp. C1.
  24. ^ Marie-Andrée Amiot (September 3, 1994). "Bibi passe à TQS et les 100 Watts ont un nouvel animateur". Le Devoir. Vol. LXXXV, no. 204. pp. D4.
  25. ^ "Les Réseaux Premier Choix - Annual Report 1996" (PDF). McGill Library. ((cite web)): Unknown parameter |wayback= ignored (help)
  26. ^ Paul Cauchon (January 27, 1999). "Canal Famille en orbitre". Le Devoir. Vol. XC, no. 15. pp. B8.
  27. ^ "Vrak.tv remplace Canal Famille". Infopresse. December 5, 2000. ((cite web)): Unknown parameter |wayback= ignored (help)
  28. ^ Louise Cousineau (December 6, 2000). "Canal Famille est mort, vive le "Méchant Canal" !". La Presse. Vol. 117, no. 48. p. C2. ISSN 0317-9249.
  29. ^ Odile Tremblay (December 1, 2001). "Le marché jeunesse une offensive bien planifiée". Le Devoir. Vol. XCI}, no. 274. pp. C4 et C5.
  30. ^ "Vrak.tv remplace Canal Famille - Infopresse". Archived from the original on June 25, 2016.
  31. ^ "VRAK - Details". bellmediapr.ca.
  32. ^ "Changement d'orientation : la direction de VRAK explique ses choix (In French)". Huffington Post Quebec. September 10, 2016.
  33. ^ Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (September 25, 2023). "Broadcasting Decision CRTC 2023-324". Retrieved September 25, 2023.
  34. ^ Decision: Premier Choix: TVEC Inc. "Canal Famille" — 871204400, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, December 1, 1987