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MTV Canada will return to Canadian television March 21, the CTV network revealed yesterday as it announced plans for the launch of its domestic version of the U.S. pop-culture channel.

The debut could spark a battle for viewers with CHUM Ltd.'s Much Music station, which also offers music-related and celebrity focused content. However, CTV said the new version of MTV Canada will be based on lifestyle and talk programming, rather than music and videos.

Both companies are also expected to compete fiercely for digital audiences, bolstering their on-line offerings with downloadable shows and pushing towards broadcasts for cellphones.

The Canadian network's first broadcast will be MTV Live -- a Canadian talk series that takes to the air at 6 p.m. that day. The announcement came as CTV began shoring up advertisers for the launch.

"Starting today, MTV is officially open for business," MTV senior vice-president and general manager Brad Schwartz said in a statement.

As MTV has done in many markets around the world, the network and CTV are creating a local version of the brand. Further programming will be announced closer to the launch date, CTV said in a statement.

CTV also plans to run MTV programming on its main network and is expected to make downloadable content available through its website. MTV Canada will also have access to its U.S. partner's digital assets, which include a music downloading site that will be launched later this year in a partnership with Microsoft.

"In the coming days, other MTV programming, both for the MTV channel as well as for the CTV network and other media platforms, will be revealed," CTV said.

The launch date for MTV Canada has been a closely guarded secret within CTV, which secured the rights to operate a Canadian version of the U.S.-based pop-culture network last year.

Yesterday's announcement comes a week after CTV said the channel would be housed at Toronto's historic Masonic Temple, where it has installed a three-metre by four-metre MTV Canada logo.

The MTV Canada licence was held by Craig Broadcasting, which ran some of its content on the A Channel network.

The MTV brand became available after Craig was bought by CHUM. MTV was allowed to pull out of the deal because of the ownership change.

CTV's incarnation of MTV Canada requires the network to operate the station under its TalkTV licence, but the network may also apply for an additional digital cable channel to add to the main programming. CTV is a unit of Bell Globemedia, which also owns The Globe and Mail.

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