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HBO makes a break for the border

HBO Canada a joint venture of Astral, Corus

Canadians will finally get their own HBO channel on Oct. 30 — but it’s not owned by HBO.

HBO Canada is a joint venture of Astral Media and Corus Entertainment, which already air HBO content on their pay TV webs the Movie Network and Movie Central, respectively.

HBO and webs such as Disney and MTV are shut out of Canada by laws banning foreign companies from owning or operating channels north of the border.

Instead, Astral and Corus will bow the HBO-branded channel and boost their programming commitment with HBO from 100 hours a year to 300 hours.

It’s a multiyear arrangement, though Astral Television Networks’ prexy John Riley would not say how long it lasts.

The new channel must also air 25% Canadian content overall and 30% in primetime to satisfy Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission regs.

HBO Canada will be available free to anyone who subscribes to the Movie Network, covering eastern Canada, or Movie Central, covering the western half of the country.

“For years, HBO’s dramatic programming has been available on the Movie Network and Movie Central. But even with all of the HBO titles we offered, Canadians still wanted more,” Riley said. “They wanted the comedy series, the live specials, the sporting events and the behind-the-scenes content that went into the HBO viewing experience.”

HBO Canada will feature firstrun HBO series including “True Blood,” “Entourage” and “Big Love,” which will all air day-and-date with HBO in the U.S.

The channel will also pick up 200 hours of library titles and firstrun HBO original films, comedy specials, documentaries, live concerts and sporting events that were previously unavailable in Canada.

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