CBC takes another kick at World Cup

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:46 AM ET

CBC Sports is still very much alive and kicking.

The public broadcaster scored a stunning coup yesterday, securing the broadcast rights to the 2010 and 2014 soccer World Cups as part of an eight-year agreement with FIFA, the sport's world governing body.

Also included in the staggering package of 37 FIFA events is next year's World Cup Under-20 men's tournament -- which will be played in six Canadian cities, including Ottawa -- and the 2007 and 2011 women's World Cups. CBC is host broadcaster for next year's event in Canada.

"It's terrific for the CBC," said Nancy Lee, CBC Sports' executive director.

Included in the wide-ranging deal are radio, Internet, mobile phone and video-on-demand rights. Radio-Canada will handle French-language coverage on all its platforms, while Telelatino has been secured as a television partner and plans to air games in Italian, Spanish and Portuguese.

Kevan Pipe, the COO of the Canadian Soccer Association, called it "the most comprehensive broadcasting agreement ever struck between a network in Canada and the international soccer world."

CBC outbid a consortium headed by Rogers Sportsnet and TSN, which broadcast the 2006 World Cup in Germany, airing every match live and in high definition.

"We put our best foot forward and we were unsuccessful ... obviously, we're disappointed," said TSN president Phil King. "I thought we put together a very comprehensive, very aggressive bid with Rogers."

Lee believed the difference maker for the CBC was its ability to offer free over-the-air coverage of the World Cups to the largest number of Canadians.

"Football is enjoying an upsurge in popularity in Canada and it is therefore only fitting that we have the best platform to reach the widest possible audience across the nation," FIFA president Sepp Blatter said in a statement.

The dollar value of the TSN/Sportsnet bid was said to be substantially higher than what was paid for Germany 2006. Lee wouldn't disclose dollar figures or comment on whether it can be profitable for CBC, but called it "a responsible bid going forward."

A Soccer Day in Canada -- modelled after Hockey Day in Canada -- is already in the works to augment the deal.

CBC last broadcast the World Cup in 2002, sharing rights for Korea-Japan with TSN.

After losing Olympic and curling rights over the past two years, there has been growing speculation that CBC might be on the way out of the sports game. But yesterday's news made it clear the public broadcaster will fight to retain its NHL and CFL rights next year.

"We're not getting out of the (sports) business," said Lee.


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