Tuesday, September 26, 2006

CBC Slams Back into Curling

Another huge curling announcement!

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the granddaddy of curling TV coverage dating back to the early 1960s, is back in the game.

Today, CBC and the World Curling Players' Association rocked curling's TV landscape for the third time in four months by announcing a stunning eight-year deal to televise the Grand Slam of Curling, the World Curling Tour's crown jewel series of four major money tournaments.

Previously the signature curling property of Rogers Sportsnet since 1999, the Slammers jump to a tier one broadcast partner for the first time in their history, just weeks after TSN, The Sports Network, had locked up the Canadian Curling Association's Season of Champions telecasts from 2008 to 2014, evicting CBC entirely.

“Curling has enjoyed a long and proud tradition of coverage on CBC, and we are excited to add these events to our lineup,” said Nancy Lee, executive director of CBC Sports. “The Grand Slams feature the top curlers from Canada and around the world going head to head in thrilling competition. There is no better place for them to be showcased to all Canadians than on CBC.”

As CBC still maintains title rights – and with that, championship-final coverage – of CCA events through 2008, it has proven difficult to move all four Grand Slams into the existing TV schedule. Three of the four Slams will appear on CBC, with the fourth subcontracted to Global TV, the outfit which broadcast one other curling event in its history – the 2001 Players' Championship, the precursor to the Grand Slams.

Also announced is a new ownership structure behind the Slams, which were an IMG property up to 2005. Insight Sports, a backer of CurlTV and owner of various other TV networks, has jumped into the curling world with both feet, and are talking tough about hosting a Slam in downtown Toronto's Air Canada Centre, the home of hockey's Maple Leafs and basketball's Raptors, as early as December 2007.

Insight is headed by Larry Tanenbaum, chairman of the board of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the owners of the ACC.

“Insight Sports is excited and delighted to be able to partner with both the CBC and the World Curling Players Association on such high calibre events in a sport with such a rich heritage and tradition in Canada,” said Ron Bremner, the Insight CEO.

The ink is barely dry on the contracts and the all-eight-end action starts in just two months, with The Masters of Curling in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, Nov. 29-Dec. 3. Next up is the Canadian Open, Jan. 24-28 in Winnipeg's now-familiar MTS Centre, with The National then returning to Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia from March 21-25. The Players' Championship will conclude the series in Calgary – just days after the men's Ford Worlds in nearby Edmonton– on April 11-15.

“The World Curling Players Association is pleased the Grand Slam has a solid foundation formed with CBC and Insight Sports. Both organizations have very experienced management teams who will lead this ‘world-class competition’ this year and into the next decade,” said Paul Boutilier, executive director of the World Curling Tour and also WCPA president. “I am very proud of the players, both women and men, for delivering some incredible curling the past five seasons – I know these outstanding athletes will continue to excite and entertain fans and viewers on CBC. This is a great day for all players!”

So, what does all this mean?

• CBC's team of veteran Don Wittman and Olympic analysts Mike Harris and Joan McCusker are still working after 2008, and locked up for another six years. Ditto their award-winning backbone of producers, directors and technicians;

• The Slams have jumped in stature of ownership, broadcast partner and overall value;

• Curling fans can rejoice over ever-increasing numbers of event broadcasts, webcasts, podcasts and whatevercasts up to and beyond Vancouver 2010.

Stay tuned to The Curling News – naturally – for all the latest...

1 comment:

Matt. said...

Living in the US on a town that borders Canada, I worried that Curling would come off the TV in the US. CBC is on our basic cable, TSN is relatively unknown in the US though, and not available. Now, not only will border towns still get to see Curling, the level will be outstanding. So this is awesome news for US curling as well, since US teams could make slams (and they could never make Briers or Scotts.)