Road To The Olympic Games

Curling association inks 6-year deal with TSN

The Canadian Curling Association has hammered out a new six-year deal with TSN for exclusive broadcast rights to top-flight curling events, starting in 2008.

The Canadian Curling Association has hammered out a new six-year deal with TSN for exclusive broadcast rights to top-flight curling events, shutting out the CBC, starting in 2008.

The pact includes properties such as the Brier, Tournament of Hearts, world curling championships and Olympic trials.

CBC spokesperson Ruth-Ellen Soles said the network received a "perfunctory call" Thursday morning from the CCA telling them of the deal.

"For the first time ever there was no tender process," said Soles, meaning CBC had no chance to submit a counter-offer.

"After a more than 40-year relationship, this was disappointing."

CBC and TSN currently share TV coverage of elite curling events. Under the existing agreement, TSN broadcasts afternoon and evening draws for the first seven days of the Brier, Hearts and world championships before CBC televises the final weekend.

The joint deal between CBC, TSN and the CCAremains in place for the next two seasons. The 2008 world championships will be the last curling event broadcast on CBC.

Once it kicks in, TSN's exclusive deal includes rights for radio, broadband, mobile, video-on-demand, interactive television and podcasts. The all-sports channel also has the opportunity to show select matches on CTV.

The TSN deal runs from the 2008-09 curling season through 2013-14.

Strained relations

CBC, TSN and the CCA signed the existing three-year agreement in October 2005 following months of strained relations between the CBC and the curling association.

CBC was left reeling last summer when the CCA pulled out of a four-year contract it signedwith the network in2004.

The curling association claimed the CBC didn't live up to its end of the bargain with its coverage. The CBC maintained the CCA illegally terminated the contract and threatened a lawsuit.

The CCA signed exclusively with CBCin 2004 because the public broadcaster offered more live coverage, even though some of it was on the digital channel Country Canada. TSN had planned to tape delay a number of draws.

But CBC had a bumpy first season as curling's sole broadcaster.

The network was the subject of heavy criticism from curling fans and media for its coverage. Fans were infuriated when they learned they had to subscribe to Country Canada to watch the evening draws.

In response, the CBC partnered with the all-sports channel The Score to help cover the evening matches, while the main network televised a live draw in the afternoon.

In meetings with the CCA last June, the CBC said it was willing to revert to its coverage schedule of previous years when it showed the championship rounds of the Brier and Tournament of Hearts, while allowing another network to broadcast the round-robin portion of those tournaments.

The CCA opted to walk away from the CBC deal and said it was considering two offers from other broadcasters.

A few months later, CBC, TSN and the curling association reached their existing three-year pact, which expires in 2008.

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