TV deal saves Grand Slam

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:43 AM ET

Not only has the CBC saved the Grand Slam but a World Curling Tour co-founder has returned to help keep it afloat.

And the games will get shorter.

The World Curling Players' Association confirmed earlier reports that CBC-TV will be broadcasting Grand Slam games until 2014 in a teleconference call yesterday.

The WCPA awarded the licensing rights to Inside Sports, which set up the TV deal with CBC to replace Rogers Sportsnet -- which suddenly dropped out of the Slam picture in August.

"The Slam was in jeopardy when Sportsnet pulled out," WCPA president Paul Boutilier admitted after the teleconference. "If you don't have a TV partner or any sponsorship, you don't have any events."

Inside Sports will now be responsible for any losses, Boutilier said. It cost the entertainment marketing company little to earn the licensing rights to the Slam series, which will offer a total purse of $550,000.

ASHAM TITLE SPONSOR

The Grand Slam is a series of four high-profile curling events that culminate with a combined men's and women's championship and is closely tied to the Canadian Curling Association's new Olympic trials qualifying process.

Although Asham Curling Supplies has replaced Ultima as the WCT's title sponsor, CEO Arnold Asham did not have to pay the annual lump sum of $30,000 it cost Ultima, Boutilier said.

CBC will televise the first Slam final on Dec. 3 and likely at least some semifinals this season, Boutilier said. The new deal also means that Slam games will now be on the national network as opposed to a specialty network (Sportsnet) with limited viewership.

"One of the biggest sellers is saying you're going to have the opportunity to play on national TV, four big events, lots of cash, lots of big exposure for them and your team," said Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton. "It should be a win-win for curlers, fans and sponsors."

To facilitate both telecasts and hosting arenas, competitors have agreed to reduce their games to eight ends.

"It was inevitable that the game would go to eight ends or we'd be looking at a four-hour time slot for 10 ends," said Alberta skip Kevin Martin. "It's just the evolution of what's going on in this sport.

"Ten years ago I'm not sure eight ends would have worked but now the ice conditions we play on, the amount of rocks in play and how long it actually takes to play an end with all those draws, it takes us longer to play."

The first of the four Slam events, the Masters, is set for Nov. 29-Dec. 3 in Kitchener, Ont.; Winnipeg hosts the Canadian Open Jan. 24-28; the National will be held March 22-25 in Port Hawkesbury, N.S., while Calgary is home to the Players Championship April 10-15.


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