Home Diverse Media Notes A look at Canada’s cartoon cable TV networks

A look at Canada’s cartoon cable TV networks

Toronto city skyline

While I’m not Canadian, a portion of my readership does live in Canada, so I’ve occasionally written about Canadian TV. That said, the last time I wrote heavily about Canadian TV was in 2016, a year after Canada’s cable TV lineup underwent some major changes. Said changes included the demise of Teletoon Retro, which saw a spike in irate Canadian readers chiming in in the blog’s comments section. (Teletoon Retro’s US analogue, Boomerang, still exists, though its viewership has its own problems.) Versions of Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, and Nickelodeon also launched in Canada in the mid-2010s.

Since then, however, the state of Canadian cable TV might be moot. A 2021 survey projected that in 2022, less than 50% of Canadian households will subscribe to traditional pay TV. Which makes me think I should take a new look at the current state of cartoon-related Canadian cable TV networks. (I’ll probably tackle streaming in a future post.)

Again, I don’t live in Canada, and haven’t been there in person for a few years (the pandemic not helping), so I can’t see some of these networks first-hand. Still, I’ll be sure to do so on any future trip. I’m also just looking at the major English-language broadcasters, as well as any French-language arms they have.

While they aren’t listed below, Canada’s national and provincial public broadcasters (CBC and French-language Radio-Canada; Ontario’s TVOntario and French-language TFO; British Columbia’s Knowledge Network; and Quebec’s French-language Télé-Québec) also offer cartoons, mostly children’s educational ones. For Americans, CBC is available on cable in areas near the US/Canadian border, including where I live.

Canadian versus American TV differences

CBC building entrance
CBC Building” by Evan 07 is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (Flickr / cropped from original)

One of the biggest differences I notice about Canadian TV versus American TV is Canada seems more lenient and somewhat less conservative about certain content. “Degrassi: The Next Generation” is aired on some Canadian kids’ networks; while also popular in the US, “Degrassi” is usually not considered appropriate for Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, or Cartoon Network here. (Its predecessors, “Degrassi Junior High” and “Degrassi High,” didi air on PBS.) “Degrassi” mostly aired stateside on teen-oriented TV networks, including Nick’s sister channel TeenNick; it’s now available to stream on HBO Max.

Another example is the Teletoon cartoon “6Teen,” which was heavily censored and short-lived when it aired here. This included Cartoon Network not airing a few episodes (such as one about Jen, Nikki, and Caitlin dealing with their periods); they also poorly dubbed over any mentions of gay characters, being the late 2000s/early 2010s. (*Sigh.*). The Cartoon Network airings of Teletoon’s “Total Drama Island” also had a few lines changed or dubbed for content reasons.

This leniency extends to adult-oriented programming. The CBC medical drama “SkyMed,” carried in the US on Paramount+, has some language that wouldn’t fly on broadcast TV here.

Canada, like the US, does have a TV show rating system.

Another difference is in media ownership. Corus is a Canadian media conglomerate that owns quite a bit, including (of all things) animation software Toon Boom and the Nelvana animation studio. Corus also owns YTV and Teletoon; they also handle the Canadian versions of Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and Disney Channel. Corus’ ownership is also why these networks’ websites look similarly laid out, and why these channels share some programming.

WildBrain (formerly DHX) owns Family, plus quite a few properties via various mergers. As a result, WildBrain seems to own most of the Canadian cartoon properties that Corus doesn’t own. This also extends to buying American-created properties; WildBrain now owns most of the rights to the “Peanuts” franchise, as well as “Strawberry Shortcake.”

The final major difference: unlike in the US, cable networks in Canada are regulated and licensed by the CRTC (Canada’s equivalent to the US’ FCC) like over-the-air channels. The main consequence seems to be somewhat less “going off-topic” for its cable channels, unlike the American Cartoon Network flirting heavily with live-action programming, or MTV’s current state.

Teletoon

Teletoon home page
Teletoon’s home page. (Teletoon / screenshot by author)

Teletoon is still a dominant force in Canadian animation, serving for years as Canada’s analogue to the US’ Cartoon Network. Both networks have long had close ties; Cartoon Network aired a number of Teletoon shows in the aughts, and these days heavily airs “Total Dramarama” (a “Total Drama” spin-off with the cast as preschoolers). That said, Disney Channel stateside did air at least one of Teletoon’s shows, the live-action “My Babysitter’s a Vampire.”

Teletoon also has several sister stations:

  • Télétoon, its French-language version
  • Cartoon Network
  • Adult Swim

The mid-2010s saw Cartoon Network enter the Canadian TV market, run by Corus (Teletoon’s owner). The main difference from the US version is that it airs 24 hours a day; Adult Swim has become a separate 24-hour channel in Canada. (Odd that the US version of Adult Swim never did so here.) Cartoon Network and Adult Swim also air some Canadian shows to meet Canadian content requirements, which is required of all Canadian TV networks. While “CanCon” has had some criticism, I half-suspect that without it, some broadcasters would air nothing but American-made TV shows 24 hours a day.

Still, Cartoon Network is clearly a secondary channel to Teletoon, which airs all of the current and recent Cartoon Network shows. Teletoon also airs most of HBO Max’s original cartoons, including “Looney Tunes Cartoons,” “Jellystone!,” and “Young Justice,” as well as Hulu’s “Animaniacs” reboot. (Hulu doesn’t exist outside the US; non-American versions of Disney+ carry Hulu’s Disney-owned content under the “Star” category.) Older shows aired include “Batman: The Animated Series,” “Justice League,” and “Amazing World of Gumball.” On the Canadian content side, “6Teen” and “Total Dramarama” also regularly air.

Teletoon also runs for 24 hours. At one time it ran an Adult Swim analogue, “Teletoon at Nite,” but dropped this by the time the stand-alone Adult Swim channel launched in 2019.

YTV

SpongeBob on YTV
“SpongeBob SquarePants.” (YTV / screenshot by author)

YTV has long served as the home of Nickelodeon’s programming in Canada. A role YTV still has, even after the launch of a Canadian version of Nick.

YTV’s sister stations include:

  • Treehouse TV
  • Nickelodeon

Looking at its schedule, like its American cousin, YTV relies heavily on “SpongeBob” and “The Loud House,” plus movies. Unlike Nick, YTV runs for 24 hours, without a “Nick at Nite” analogue. As such, Nick’s overnight hours programming includes “Braceface,” a 2000s Canadian cartoon that hasn’t aired in the US in years. Like “6Teen,” “Braceface”’s US airings also had some episodes (and entire seasons) censored or unaired for content reasons. (For starters, “Braceface” had an openly gay character.)

Treehouse TV is a preschool-oriented channel. It looks like a mix of: PBS (the 2000s “Berenstain Bears” cartoon), Nick Jr. (“Paw Patrol,” though its original home’s TVOntario), and most of Cartoonito (“Sesame Street” spin-off “Mecha-Builders,” etc.).

Some Treehouse TV programming also aired stateside. Most of it’s also available without being region-blocked on its own YouTube channel, including a handful of episodes of “The Fairly OddParents.” YTV/Treehouse owner Corus handles non-US distribution rights to that show.

Disney Channel

Disney Channel Canada with Raven's Home
Disney Channel (Canada)’s main page. (Disney / screenshot by author)

Disney Channel replaced Teletoon Retro as a stand-alone TV channel in Canada, as mentioned above.

Disney Channel’s sister stations include:

  • Disney XD
  • Disney Junior
  • A French-language version of Disney Channel, “La Chaîne Disney

Programming is similar to the American versions: live-action sitcoms and movies on Disney Channel, preschooler stuff on Disney Junior. The main differences: for starters, Disney Channel is less reliant on sitcoms vs the American version, airing more cartoons. Along with the live-action sitcoms, Disney Channel also airs “Degrassi: The Next Generation” in late-night hours. “Hotel Transylvania: The Series” is also a mainstay.

Disney XD mostly airs Marvel and “Star Wars” cartoons, Disney Channel cartoons (“The Owl House,” the “DuckTales” reboot), and older Canadian cartoons “Scaredy Squirrel” and “Detentionaire.”

Family / WildBrainTV

Johnny Test on Family
“Johnny Test.” (Family / screenshot by author)

For years, Family was the Canadian home of Disney Channel programming. In turn, Disney Channel stateside also aired some Family shows over the years, including sitcoms “Naturally, Sadie” and “Life With Derek.” Some of its programming also has aired on Nickelodeon, including the popular 90s show “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” WildBrain, Family’s owner, is also the owner of the “Degrassi” franchise. The 2015 launch of a Canadian version of Disney Channel led Family to rely mainly on WildBrain’s own programming.

Family’s sister stations include:

  • Family Jr., preschool programming and Family’s answer to Disney Junior.
  • Télémagino, the French-language version of Family Jr.
  • WildBrainTV, Family’s answer to Disney XD. (Formerly called “Family CHRGD.”)

Programming for Family includes WildBrain mainstays such as “Johnny Test.” DreamWorks seems to be the go-to for third-party programming, with the “Boss Baby” and “Trolls” TV shows airing on Family.

WildBrainTV also airs “Johnny Test,” plus “The Deep,” “Captain Underpants,” and the “She-Ra” reboot.

Family Jr. airs a mix of third-party content, including shows from DreamWorks, PBS/CBC shows like “Daniel Tiger’s Neighbourhood” (note the Canadian English spelling, which extends to the show’s logo), and Cartoonito’s “Lucas the Spider.” WildBrain-sourced shows include “Caillou,” which seems to be treated as Family Jr.’s flagship show.

One Family Jr. show, however, stands out from any American preschool channel, and ties into the Canadian TV differences I noted above: “The Fabulous Show with Fay and Fluffy,” a show starring a drag queen duo in a televised version of a drag queen story hour. The show emphasizes teaching inclusiveness to its young viewers through stories, animated segments, and musical numbers. Given the attacks on such story hours by anti-LGBTQ groups (both in the US and Canada), it’s nice to see a TV version exists. Unfortunately, I can imagine the reaction if this show aired stateside on Disney Junior.

Conclusion

If I’ve missed anything, or if you still miss Teletoon Retro, please feel free to comment below.

Toronto skyline.” by Bernard Spragg is marked with CC0 1.0 (Flickr)

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