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Astral Media


This note considers Astral Media, a Canadian broadcasting group.


It covers -

  • introduction
  • history
  • holdings
  • studies
  • landmarks

Introduction

Astral Media Inc. owns 29 radio stations in Quebec and Canada's Atlantic provinces, along with television channels available across Canada (such as The Movie Network and The Family Channel). It is the country's largest broadcaster of English- and French-language pay and specialty television. Astral also has outdoor advertising operations.

History

Astral traces its origins to Angreen Photo, a photography chain founded in 1961 by Harold Greenberg (1930-1996) and brothers Ian, Harvey and Sidney. Harold Greenberg gained exclusive rights to sell film at the Montreal Expo 67 site, along with photographic rights in the Expo pavilions. Expansion after 1968 saw Angreen grow from concessions in department stores to some 125 stand alone retail operations under the Astral Photo name.

Astral expanded into motion picture processing after acquisition of the Pathé-Humphries motion picture lab, which traced its origins to the US offshoot of the Pathé brothers film business. The name was changed to Bellevue Pathé and later to AstralTech.

Astral was reconstructed in 1973 as Astral Bellevue Pathé Limited, when the Greenberg's folded their processing and retailing interests into the one entity. Astral expanded into videocassette duplication and video wholesaling. Harold Greenberg and Astral also produced or financed feature films and television programs, including In Praise of Older Women (1978), Porky's (1981) and Le Zombi de Cap-Rouge (1997). Astral's expansion into pay television was inhibited by its involvement in production.

In 1983 Astral acquired control of the ailing First Choice Canadian Communications Corp, responsible for Canada's two pay-per-view television networks (FirstChoice - later The Movie Network and The Movie Channel and Premier Choix - later Super Écran), subsequently adding new networks. It ceased directly involvement in film and program production but expanded into radio broadcasting.

Astral Communications was rebadged as Astral Media in February 2000.

Holdings

Astralia Media stations include -

  • CKMF-FM 94.3, Montreal
  • CHIK-FM 98.9, Quebec City
  • CKTF-FM 104.1, Gatineau / Outaouais
  • CIMO-FM 106.1, Magog / Estrie
  • CIGB-FM 102.3, Trois-Rivières / Mauricie
  • CJAB-FM 94.5, Saguenay
  • CJMM-FM 99.1, Rouyn-Noranda
  • CJMV-FM 102.7, Val d'Or
  • CIKI-FM 98.7, Rimouski
  • CJDM-FM 92.1, Drummondville
  • CITE-FM 107.3, Montreal
  • CITF-FM 107.5, Quebec City
  • CIMF-FM 94.9, Gatineau / Outaouais
  • CITE-FM-1 102.7, Sherbrooke / Estrie
  • CHEY-FM 94.7, Trois-Rivières / Mauricie
  • CFIX-FM 96.9, Saguenay
  • CJOI-FM 102.9, Rimouski
  • CFEI-FM 106.5, Saint-Hyacinthe
  • CFZZ-FM 104.1, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu
  • CHRD-FM 105.3, Drummondville
  • CFVM-FM 99.9, Amqui
  • CIKX-FM 93.5, Grand Falls, New Brunswick
  • CKTY-FM 99.5, Truro, Nova Scotia
  • CKTO-FM 100.9, Truro, Nova Scotia
  • CJCJ-FM 104.1, Woodstock, New Brunswick
  • CFXY-FM 105.3, Fredericton, New Brunswick
  • CIBX-FM 106.9, Fredericton, New Brunswick
  • CKHJ 1260, Fredericton, New Brunswick
  • CKBC 1360, Bathurst, New Brunswick

Television channels include -

  • The Movie Network
  • Super Écran
  • Mpix
  • cinépop
  • Viewers Choice
  • Canal Indigo
  • Family
  • Canal Vie
  • Canal D
  • VRAK.TV
  • Ztélé
  • Historia
  • Séries+
  • MusiquePlus
  • MusiMax
  • TELETOON

Other interests include -

  • Astral Media Outdoor - some 3,700 billboards in Québec and Ontario, along with static and electronic advertising at Montréal, Québec City and Calgary airports
  • AstralTech - film and television technical services.

Studies

There are no major English-language studies of the group.

Landmarks

1961 Angreen Photo founded

1963 acquires Bellevue Photo labs in Montreal

1967 Greenberg gets concessions for Montreal Expo

1968 acquires three stores of Centre Photographique de Montréal

1968 acquires Pathé-Humphries processing lab and recording studio

1969 acquires Associated Screen News Industries film production centre

1971 Astral Communications IPO

1973 Greenberg interests consolidated as Astral Bellevue Pathé through merger of Bellevue Pathé and Astral

1981 launch of Pathé Video videocassette reproduction operation

1983 acquires control of First Choice Canadian Communications' FirstChoice and Premier Choix pay-per-view networks

1983 Astral ceases direct involvement in film and program production

1984 launch of Ciné-Maison Bellevue (wholesale distributor of videocassettes), later Ciné-Maison Astral

1988 launch of youth channels Family Channel and Canal Famille (later VRAK.TV)

1991 launch of Viewer's Choice channel

1994 establishes AstralTech Americas CD reproduction operation in Florida

1995 acquires 35% of Artech Digital Entertainment software and video game developer

1995 launch of Canal D and Moviepix (later Mpix) channels

1996 launches Canal Indigo channel

1997 sells AstralTech Americas

1997 acquires a 25% share in Radiomutuel inc.

1997 increases stake in Les réseaux Premier Choix (Super Écran, Canal Famille/VRAK.TV, Canal D) to 100%

1997 takes 14.95% stake in The Comedy Network (other shareholders include Shaw and Baton Broadcasting)

1998 marketer TV Plus Media (later Astral Media TVPlus) founded as joint venture between Astral and Radiomutuel

1998 launch of English- and French-language channels TELETOON/TÉLÉTOON

1999 Astral acquires 63% of Groupe Covitec, merged with AstralTech

1999 agrees to acquire Radiomutuel (eight FM radio stations, three AM radio stations, 50% of the Radiomédia network, Canal Vie, Canal Z, Télé-Annonces, 50% of MusiquePlus and MusiMax, 72% of Omni outdoor advertising company)

2000 Astral Communications becomes Astral Media

2000 AstralTech video reproduction and distribution assets and interest in Covitec sold to Technicolor

2000 liquidation of Ciné-Maison

2000 launch of Ztélé channel

2000 launch of jointly owned Historia and Séries+ channels

2001 acquires remaining 50% of The Family Channel from Corus Entertainment

2001 sells 14.95% interest in The Comedy Network to Corus

2001 acquires CFOM-FM Quebec City, CFEI-FM Saint-Hyacinthe and CHRD-FM Drummondville

2002 acquires remaining 14% interest in Astral Media Outdoor

2002 regulators approve acquisition of 17 Télémédia radio stations for C$255m

2003 Télémédia sells stake in Astral Media for C$130m

2005 exchanges a number of radio stations with Corus, gaining five FM radio stations in Quebec (two in Rimouski, Amqui, Drummondville and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu) and transfers CFOM-FMAM and Quebec AM operations to Corus

2005 acquires Passeport Média (advertising at Montreal-Trudeau and Calgary International Airports)

2006 Astral and Corus agree to acquire remaining 20% of TELETOON network from shareholders of The Cookie Jar Group for C$96m