Is curling's house divided?

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 1:09 PM ET

Just when you think there's nothing left to say about the current crisis in TV curling ... This ongoing soap opera that seems never-ending -- destined to live on even longer in syndication someday, we're sure -- has taken yet another wild turn.

Who knows where it heads next?

Here's the latest chapter in this tale of sorry ineptitude. The CBC and the Canadian Curling Association are in the midst of a major pissing match over who's footing the bill to provide the international feed for the world men's curling championships, which begin April 2 in Victoria.

As part of the deal it signed with the CCA last year, the CBC is required to supply at least 20 hours of host broadcast coverage to Eurosport, which has a contract with the World Curling Federation.

The fun began when the CBC demanded a fee for the service -- reports suggest anywhere from $300,000-$500,000 -- to cover costs. The WCF refused, saying that responsibility belonged with the CCA, which had raked in a rather pretty pile of cash when it signed its four-year deal with the CBC.

Grudgingly, the CCA forked over $300,000. But there are suggestions it may sue to get the money back.

Clearly, this is no happy marriage anymore.

And forgive curling fans if they snicker a little bit at the irony here -- that the CCA dumped TSN as a rightsholder mainly because the CBC offered to cover all production costs at the Brier, Scott Tournament of Hearts and several other domestic events over the life of their deal.

Now some rather loud whispers suggest this week's goings-on might blow up the CBC-CCA deal completely (although surely some of it is wishful thinking on the part of those who want TSN back in the game).

Stifle a guffaw here if you must.

So let's put on our speculation cap for a moment. Say the CBC and CCA part ways. Does that bring TSN back into the picture?

Perhaps. But sources say TSN has had absolutely no contact with the gods of Canadian curling since it got the boot last summer.

Would TSN entertain a return to curling? Absolutely, if only because historically, the network never considers any door shut completely.

The timing of it all, though, is critical. Sports networks such as TSN and Rogers Sportsnet begin laying out their winter plans in the next two months. If the CCA comes knocking on TSN's door in the fall, it's too late.

"If it's going to happen, it better happen soon," an industry source said about any possible overtures toward TSN.

The CCA better be ready for another shock when it sees the kind of numbers TSN places in front of it, should those discussions ever take place. The CBC and TSN bid premium bucks for curling's rights last summer, in part because both faced a winter with no NHL hockey.

That situation isn't likely to present itself again, now or in four years time. So the CCA would pay dearly -- again -- for its shortsightedness.

Imagine, too, how much worse it might get if the next negotiation follows another three years of acrimony engulfing the CBC, the CCA, and the game's fans and sponsors. And only one network -- if that -- shows any interest in a property that is hardly lucrative at the best of times.

Scott Paper has yet to finalize an extension of its 25-year involvement with women's curling. TSN lost McCain as the sponsor of its Skins Game, which has been mothballed because nobody wants to fill the void.

"The marketplace has been poisoned (for potential curling sponsors)," said another source, making it clear the current mess is the culprit.

Did it really have to come to this?

That's perhaps the question of the moment. But hardly the final one.

Of that, we couldn't be more sure.

rob.brodie@ott.sunpub.com


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