'Net puts curling in fans' house

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:06 AM ET

Curling fans are a passionate bunch.

Especially when it comes to how their sport is televised. Just ask CBC and TSN, which heard more than an earful after broadcast rights for the Brier and Scott Tournament of Hearts changed hands during the summer.

Now Rogers Sportsnet has come up with a rather cool way to put the big clicker in viewers' hands.

They'll decide which semi-final match gets shown over the final five ends during Grand Slam of Curling coverage on Sunday (3 p.m.) from Humboldt, Sask.

Here's how it'll work. Sportsnet will show the first three ends of one M & M Meat Shops Masters of Curling semi-final, then switch over to the second semi for the next two ends. Up until the fifth-end break, viewers can log onto www.sportsnet.ca and vote on which match they want to see to its conclusion (you'll find the poll on the site's curling page).

"In TV, producers can be arrogant in assuming what the viewers want to see," said Sportsnet curling producer Curtis Saville in explaining the concept. "This is one way to get the fans more involved.

"We'll trust their opinion. If one game is a blowout and the other is a close game, we'll trust that they'll pick the right game. If they're both close, let's see what they say."

Saville added the interactive element will continue through the rest of Sportsnet's Grand Slam season.

Sunday's final airs at 8 p.m. No choice needed there.

THE PUCK STOPS HERE: Hockey fans aren't the only ones watching this week's negotiations between the NHL and its players' association with interest. TV rightsholders have plenty at stake here, too. The CBC is on record as saying it will lose $20 million if Hockey Night in Canada is wiped out for a season. And while TSN and Sportsnet can fill programming holes created by no NHL, making up for the losses in audience and ad revenue are another thing entirely. "We in no way think a long hockey disruption is good for anyone," said Sportsnet president Doug Beeforth. "If we get to the day (that the season is cancelled), it will be a sad day for a lot of people, including us."

ARE YOU READY? The NFL Network has received CRTC approval to operate as a digital service in Canada. With the regulatory hurdle cleared, the league will begin the process of negotiating with cable and satellite carriers for a position on the digital dial. Expect the channel to be available to Canadian viewers sometime next year ... ABC's Monday Night Football has come up with some clever halftime material this season. This week's lame interview with Tiger Woods definitely wasn't one of them.

AROUND THE DIAL: TSN will supply the host broadcast feed for the world junior hockey championship, which begins Christmas Day in Grand Forks, N.D. All the games are being made available in high-definition format ... Al Michaels has a new partner on the network's lead NBA team -- Hubie Brown, who returns to television after resigning as Memphis Grizzlies' coach for health reasons ... Raptors NBA TV and Sportsnet are teaming up on 54 HDTV basketball broadcasts ... TSN is carrying 12 NCAA football bowl games this season, starting with Tuesday's New Orleans Bowl (North Texas-Southern Mississippi).


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