CBC tunes out viewers

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:12 AM ET

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- There's no fury like a curling fan scorned.

It was deja vu all over again with the CBC when the Canadian Curling Association took the rights away from TSN and the CBC caused a major public outcry by putting round-robin Brier games on Bold (the new name for Country Canada) instead of the main network.

FURIOUS

Viewers expecting to tune in to watch Kevin Martin play at the world championships here, were furious, phoning newspapers and other media outlets to voice their displeasure throughout the opening weekend.

Martin's opener, against Denmark, was actually televised live on Bold,which is accessed on channel 96 in Martin's hometown of Edmonton. But with almost no promotion, few people found it. Instead of showing yesterday's game, Bold televised an episode of The Tudors.

And there's a great deal of confusion about which future games will be shown before CBC arrives here to telecast next weekend's semifinal and the final in the last year of their TV deal.

While games are also being shown on computer subscription CurlTV, fans have come to expect to be able to watch two draws a day from events such as the recent Ford World Women's Championships in Vernon, B.C. which produced record ratings for the event.

The deal is, however, that only the Worlds held in Canada are contracted to be shown on live network TV in Canada, despite the fact that this one is only about 150 km from the border and despite the fact TSN televised games from the world championships held in Bismark, N.D. in 2002.

"The Canadian Curling Association is our marketing and television agreement agent in Canada," said Les Harrison, president of the World Curling Federation.

"It's their deal. It's a deal complicated by the fact it's in the final year with CBC and the fact CBC did not pick up its option to do more games other than the semifinal and the final until a week ago, on Bold," he said.

Last year's Worlds in Edmonton were telecast on TSN during the week and CBC on the weekend, as was the routine most years for Briers and in-Canada world championships.

"The round-robin games of world championships from Europe and Asia, as was the case with the women's world championships in Japan last year, are never shown in Canada. It's a matter of money. Production costs and sponsorship," said Harrison, a Canadian who has the men's event in his hometown of Moncton, N.B. next year.

The WCF has contracted to host either the men's or women's events in Canada every year.

One of the problems, which was avoided last year with the scheduling of the event in Edmonton, was running up against the first week of Stanley Cup playoffs, as will be the case here this week.

BIG CHANGES

Harrison sees big changes, positive changes, coming in the future.

"We're going into a think-tank for 2010 onwards," he said. "There will be changes starting next year with TSN taking over all the Canadian rights and more changes to follow.

"One thing we're going to take a long look at is the number of ends involved in a game and the number of days these competitions take to play.

"We intend to talk to the players association about looking at going from 10-end games to eight-end games and about reducing the number of days so each competition doesn't involve two weekends. As it exists, it makes it very difficult to get every competition scheduled."

He points out that this event will be going up against both the Masters and the Frozen Four hockey finals next weekend, the latter of which involves the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux.

Yesterday's France-Germany game was shown live on Eurosport and made available to 35 countries. NHK in Japan started paying for TV rights this year. But the WCF spends over $2 million US a year providing TV for free to developing nations in the sport.

"Our philosophy is to grow the game. By making television coverage available to those countries, it'll help create interest and the building of curling rinks," said Harrison.

That does little to placate fans who want to watch Canada play France and Scotland today on TSN or CBC.


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