Television and Cable TV in Canada

Find out about cable, satellite and OTA in Canada, as well as cable providers, digital standards and channels...

The television standard in use in Canada is ATSC. Canada stopped broadcasting in analogue on 31 August 2011. Most countries in the world have either switched over, are switching over, or plan to switch over from analogue TV broadcasting to digital TV broadcasting. Before the advent of digital TV, the main three standards were:

  • NTSC: the USA, Canada, Japan
  • PAL: most of Western Europe, Australia, southern Africa
  • SECAM: Eastern Europe and France

Today, the main digital standards are:

  • DVB-T: most of the world, including Europe, southern Africa, Australia and southern Asia
  • ATSC: the USA, Canada, Mexico and South Korea
  • ISDB-T: most of South America
  • DTMB: China

The systems are not compatible, so a television produced for one system will not work on another.

Digital set-top boxes are available for people still using analogue TVs. However, these only work within one set of standards, so an analogue set brought into another region may still not work with a set-top box.

The DVD region for Canada is 1. DVD players will either need to be region-free or set to region 1 in order to play discs typically bought in Canada.


Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) is the main broadcast station in Canada. CBC was established in 1936 as a response to broadcasting from the USA flooding the Canadian market. It is publicly funded and broadcasts two television networks, CBC Television, producing English language programmes and Télévision de Radio-Canada, producing French language programmes. Both networks produce Canadian made programmes and are available across most of Canada.

Other national television stations include CTV, and Global, which are privately owned. They air local news programmes, domestic programmes and popular foreign programmes, especially American ones. The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) regulates all programming and stipulates that 60 percent of all programmes must be Canadian-produced. However, popular American programmes constitute much of prime-time viewing.

TVA is a popular French language network available in Quebec 'over the air', and elsewhere via cable and satellite. There are other networks available in various regions, such as CTV Two, 'V' and APTN, but these reach smaller markets. Independent stations and educational services also exist in some provinces.

  • For more information about the types of broadcasters from the CRTC : Click here

Cable and Satellite Television

The majority of Canadians subscribe to cable TV. The main national providers are:

There are other cable companies which operate within a particular province/territory. These include:

Digital satellite TV is also available in Canada, the main providers being:

Getting TV

There is no TV licence in Canada or equivalent. Local digital OTA (over the air) channels are available free of charge, but the number of channels available varies between provinces, and even between districts. CBC/Radio Canada is available to 98 percent of Canadians by OTA  transmission. However, only a very small percentage of Canadians use OTA transmission to receive television signals, the majority using cable or satellite reception.

To access satellite or cable TV, it is only necessary to select a provider who will come to the home to set up a dish or box. Providers often offer bundled packages for TV, home telephone, mobile phone and Internet provision. Cable and satellite programmes have to meet CRTC regulations and include specific programmes, such as educational, community and public affairs programmes.

  • For more information about TV service options: Click here