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Bell Media announced today that it will extend its market-leading CTV brand to its /A\ network, renaming it CTV Two this Fall.

The debut of the new identity is strategically scheduled to coincide with the launch of the network in High Definition, also planned for this Fall, and its expansion into the full Toronto extended market next year.

The move will immediately strengthen local CTV Two stations serving Vancouver, Toronto, Southwestern Ontario, Ottawa and Atlantic Canada, including the conversion of /A\ NEWS outlets in these markets under the CTV NEWS banner. A dynamic new CTV Two schedule will be revealed at the CTV Upfront presentation in Toronto this Thursday, June 2.

“As we stated to the CRTC, we are committed to the viability of the /A\ stations,” said Kevin Crull, President, Bell Media. “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. Along with our investment in HD and our commitment to local programming, today’s announcement signifies a new beginning for this network.” 

The announcement comes just weeks after the Marketing/Leger Corporate Reputation Survey named CTV as Canada’s most-trusted media brand. Ranking #24 on the Top 100 list of the most trusted brands in Canada, CTV was the only Canadian media brand to place in the Top 30.

In additional good news for viewers and advertisers, the new CTV Two schedule will be delivered in High Definition beginning this Fall, for the first time ever. Reaching the same amount of viewers as Citytv, CTV Two will immediately be accessible to nearly 90% of viewers in English Canada.

CTV is also moving forward with plans to add a re-broadcast transmitter in southern Ontario in 2012. Extending the reach of the current transmitter in Barrie, ON, the move will create a larger simulcast opportunity for advertisers in the Toronto/Hamilton extended market, subject to CRTC approval.

At this week’s CTV Upfront presentation on June 2, CTV will reveal a new CTV Two schedule featuring eight new programs to the network, seven in simulcast, including one monster acquisition to anchor the schedule. 

“We are committed to building the CTV Two schedule to contend on nearly every night of the week,” said Phil King, President, CTV Programming and Sports. “We are confident that we have scheduled franchise programs in key timeslots that will appeal to both audiences and advertisers alike.”

Marking the synergy between the CTV and CTV Two brands, the new CTV Two schedule will receive unprecedented promotional support across CTV’s main schedule in some of television’s biggest programs. A comprehensive external promotional campaign is also planned to support the launch.

“Leveraging the strength of the CTV brand on both networks is a strategic move to more effectively market, program and sell CTV Two,” said Rick Lewchuk, Senior Vice-President, CTV Creative Agency and Brand Strategy. “Additionally, CTV Two works as a navigational tool, directing viewers to one of two networks where they can find CTV programming.”

The CTV Two communities across the country will also benefit from leveraging Canada’s most trusted news brand when /A\ NEWS transitions into CTV NEWS in each market, also this Fall. While still retaining their editorial independence, the former /A\ NEWS broadcasts will be strengthened under the umbrella of the CTV NEWS brand. Additionally, local CTV Two stations will use the CTV brand in their ongoing community investment initiatives, providing a more powerful extension of support into the communities they serve.

“Extending Canada’s most trusted news brand to these local stations demonstrates our commitment to these communities,” said Wendy Freeman, President, CTV News. “We hope that under the CTV NEWS banner, these local stations will ultimately be able to survive on their own.”

/A\ finishes the 2010/2011 television season as a strong contender for Canada’s fourth network, besting programs such as Citytv’s MODERN FAMILY (with CRIMINAL MINDS) and THE EVENT (with TWO AND A HALF MEN and MIKE & MOLLY) in total viewers and key demos. /A\ 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.

After a three-year absence from /A\ News, award-winning reporter Sean Irvine is rejoining the station as the new weekend anchor for /A\ London and /A\ Windsor.

In addition to anchoring the top-rated weekend news program in southwestern Ontario, Irvine will report three days a week for /A\ London.

“Sean was one of our best reporters so it’s great to have him back on the team,” said Cal Johnstone, News Director, /A\ London/Windsor. “His addition means that viewers will be able to count on even more stories they won’t see, read or hear anywhere else.”

Irvine spent 10 years in a variety of roles at /A\ before leaving in 2008 to take a senior communications position at a London private sector company. His journalistic accomplishments include an RTNDA award for feature reporting for his series “Return to Vimy” as well as being the first news reporter on scene at the Walkerton water tragedy. 

“I never lost the journalism bug,” said Irvine. “So it’s great to be able to get back to telling stories that matter to Southwestern Ontario.”

Prior to working at /A\ News, Irvine worked as a reporter and anchor for CTV Saskatchewan and Craig Broadcasting in Manitoba. He’s a graduate of the Broadcast Journalism program at Fanshawe College.

On Thursday, November 11, /A\ Channels on Vancouver Island and in Windsor, London and Barrie offer special news broadcasts in honour of the thousands of men and women who sacrificed their lives while defending Canada in the line of military duty. At 10:57 a.m. local time on Vancouver Island and in Windsor, London and Barrie, /A\ Channel News’ Remembrance Day special broadcasts will start by pausing for a moment of silence to pay tribute to Canada’s fallen soldiers. Special coverage includes:

/A\ News Vancouver Island continues its tradition of award-winning Remembrance Day coverage from the provincial cenotaph at the BC Legislature in Victoria. 

“The service in the BC capital will take on particular significance this year for naval veterans,” said /A\ Vancouver Island News Director Hudson Mack. “CFB Esquimalt has been at the centre of a busy year of events commemorating the Canadian Navy Centennial. We are pleased to bring the cenotaph ceremony to our viewers unable to attend in person.”

/A\ Vancouver Island’s coverage honours veterans in a personal way, with Hudson Mack hosting the on-location broadcast in the uniform of the Canadian Forces. Mack proudly serves as Honourary Lieutenant-Colonel of 741 Communications Squadron in Victoria.

London’s cenotaph was built in 1934 in Victoria Park which has a military connection dating back to the mid-1800’s when it was the site of a British Garrison. /A\ News London will broadcast from the war memorial site, delivering dedicated Remembrance Day coverage in memory of Canada’s troops.

/A\ News Windsor will broadcast from the cenotaph located in downtown Windsor, across from City Hall.

“We honour those who fought in the wars, as well as the men and women who continue to serve our country in times of war, conflict and peace,” said /A\ London and /A\ Windsor News Director Cal Johnstone. “We are humbled by the sacrifice of our soldiers, and we hope to unite our viewers at home in paying homage this Remembrance Day with special cenotaph ceremonies in London and Windsor.” 

Last year, /A\ News Barrie won the RTNDA’s coveted Gord Sinclair Award for Best Live Special for coverage of Remembrance Day Ceremonies in downtown Barrie. This year, the station returns downtown to cover these moving ceremonies. Join anchors Jayne Pritchard and Tony Grace, along with weather specialist, Bob McIntyre, who has just been named the first ever Honorary Colonel of the Air Command Academy at CFB Borden.

“We take pride in delivering a Remembrance Day ceremony of the highest caliber,” said Ruth Anderson, News Director, /A\ Barrie. ”This show is our way of honouring all the local men and women who have served, and continue to serve, our country.”