TVA is a Canadian French-language terrestrial television network, owned by Groupe TVA, a publicly-traded subsidiary of Quebecor Media. TVA is believed to be short for Téléviseurs associés (roughly translated to "Associated Telecasters"; however, only the initials are used on-air). The name reflects TVA's roots as a cooperative network owned by its affiliates, though this era ended in 1992.
Headquartered in Montreal, the network only has terrestrial stations in Quebec. However, parts of New Brunswick and Ontario are within the broadcast ranges of TVA stations, and two TVA stations operate rebroadcasters in New Brunswick. However, since becoming a national network in 1998, it has been available on pay television across Canada.
TVA traces its roots to 1963, when CJPM-TV in Chicoutimi (now part of Saguenay), a station only a few months old and in need of revenue, began sharing programs with the biggest privately owned francophone station in Canada, CFTM-TV in Montreal. They were joined by CFCM-TV in Quebec City in 1964 after CFCM lost its Radio-Canada affiliation to newly-launched CBVT. While the three stations shared programs for many years, it was not until September 12, 1971, that the informal link became a proper network, TVA, with CFTM as the flagship station. The network began the first private French-language network news service in Canada in 1972. Between 1973 and 1983, seven more stations joined the network.
When the network was formally organized in 1971, its affiliates ran it as a cooperative, much like CTV operated for many years. In 1982, the cooperative became a corporation with the station owners as shareholders.
For many years, TVA's schedule was very similar to that of what CTV offered before Baton Broadcasting took over the network in that it did not have what could be called the main schedule aside from news. For instance, Pathogenic Communications, which owned the TVA affiliates in Quebec City, Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivières, and Rimouski and provided programming to the affiliates in Rivière-du-Loup and Carleton; offered programming that was radically different from that offered on CFTM.
The differences were enough that Sherbrooke's CHLT-TV, whose free-to-air signal reaches Montreal, was carried on Montreal cable systems. However, CFTM dominated the network to an even greater extent than Toronto's CFTO-TV dominated CTV, contributing as much of 90% of the network's programming. That was not surprising as Montreal has always been the center of French-language broadcasting in Canada.
In 1989, Télé-Metropole, which owned CFTM and CJPM, bought out Pathogenic and changed its name to Groupe TVA Inc., a subsidiary of cable company Vidéotron. The other station owners sold the outstanding shares of the network in 1992. Nine years later, Quebecor became the owner of TVA.
TVA also owns Le Canal Nouvelles (LCN), Canada's only private French-language headline-news channel. When TVA completes its broadcast day, the TVA stations simulcast LCN until TVA's next broadcast day begins. As well, the company owns a magazine publishing division unit, a film production and distribution house, and several other internets and cable properties, many of which are often used to cross-promote TVA series and events.
For most of the last 30 years, TVA has been more popular than Ici Radio-Canada Télé, the French-language counterpart of CBC Television. All but 10 of the 50 most popular television shows in Quebec come from TVA. For many years, TVA's reach outside Quebec was only a fraction of that of Radio-Canada, despite its popularity. The only stations with significant viewership outside Quebec were CHOT-TV of Hull (now part of Gatineau), CIMT-TV of Rivière-du-Loup and CHAU-TV of Carleton-sur-Mer.
CHOT also serves Ottawa and has been available on most cable systems in Northeastern Ontario since the early 1980s, owing to that region's large Franco-Ontarian population. CIMT and CHAU both operate rebroadcasters in New Brunswick, and between them provide nearly the entire province with TVA service. However, TVA did provide a cable feed known as TCTV starting in 1981, consisting of most of CFTM's programming and local news from other TVA stations.
In 1998, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission made it compulsory for all cable systems in Canada to carry a TVA station, to give Canada's francophone minority communities a second French-language programming choice. The station offered is usually the network's flagship, CFTM, although some cable companies in Eastern and Northern Ontario continue to offer Gatineau's CHOT instead.
TVA also provides a time-shifted feed for cable companies in Western Canada. However, this feed is just an electronic delay of CFTM's programming, rebroadcast three hours later to viewers in Western Canada through a separate feed.
Although TVA is a full-fledged network, its network feed is a retransmission of CFTM, with opt-outs by local affiliates for local news, commercials and locally produced programming. While this allows TVA to air more network programming than any other Canadian network (the basis for its longtime slogan, Le sens de la télé or "The Meaning of Television"), it also means that CFTM usually can't interrupt its programming for news or weather bulletins in Montreal without interrupting the entire network.