CBC deal bad in July, bad today

TED WYMAN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

ST. JOHN'S, Nfld. -- Back in July we gave you our opinion of the new television deal between the Canadian Curling Association and the CBC.

At the time, we said it may have been a good deal for the CCA, but it sucks for the fans.

Now, we can safely say a great many Canadians agree.

The deal, which facilitated the move of curling on television from a TSN-CBC combination exclusively to CBC and its affiliates, was widely panned when it was first announced in the summer and has created even more backlash since the Scott Tournament of Hearts started here Saturday.

The CBC, CCA and Scott Paper have been inundated with phone calls from irate viewers who can't find the games on TV, don't have the specialty channels where some of the draws are shown or can't understand why some draws are complete blanks.

"It's not fun to take the kind of public uproar that's going on right now," said Scott Paper's Robin Wilson. "We're all confused."

When TSN handled the round robin and early playoff portions of major events like the Scott and Brier, every draw was on TV, on the same channel until the CBC swooped in for the semifinal and final.

BIGGER FINANCIAL IMPACT

However, searching for a better financial deal, the CCA opened up the bidding last summer and were basically left with a choice of either going entirely with TSN or entirely with CBC.

Knowing that either way they would lose the morning draw each day, the CCA chose the Mother Corp., possibly because of a bigger financial impact, and possibly because it provided greater exposure in the big picture.

But today, the decision is not looking so good.

The CBC coverage has been fine, but only one draw per day is live on the main network, while others appear on tape delay or on lesser-known sports channel The Score or on obscure digital channel Country Canada.

And all that has viewers across the country throwing their remotes at their TVs.

"It is change, and it's change that is certainly not without problems," said CCA media relations executive Warren Hansen.

"As a result there have been a lot of phone calls and e-mails to everybody that is associated with curling. It's a backlash, without question.

"The CBC is aware and they are trying to determine the path of action over the next few days. From the CCA's position, there's nothing we can do about it. We made the deal, the contracts are signed, and they have the rights."

So let's assess the damage. The CCA's not happy, the primary sponsor's not happy, and the general viewing public is not happy.

The fans were particularly perturbed on Saturday night when a game between Saskatchewan and Quebec on Country Canada was cut off because the network is allowed only so much time for sports programming (12 1/2 hours in a week).

"That was not a good idea," Wilson said. "You just don't do that with curling ... it's like leaving the Super Bowl with seconds left on the clock."

CBC was embarrassed by the gaffe and is re-examining its curling game plan as you read this.

"There are options that are available, but we're not going to make them public at this point," said CBC senior producer Don Peppin.

"Ultimately, we are committed to doing the right thing, and we are monitoring the situation on a daily basis."

Clearly, something needs to be done. Stat.

Canada is a curling country, and the sport has a bigger opportunity than ever to capitalize on TV coverage, thanks to a little thing called the NHL lockout.

People are desperate for sports on TV, and even curling naysayers might give it a try.

If they can find it. If not, they are going to tune out, just like many Canadian curling fans are doing right now.

Just as we thought they would.


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