From the Toronto Star. Interesting Sportsnet is going after the younger generation, implications for the CFL?:
CFL gridiron gang in rights tug-of-war
"There were a lot of creaky knees and swollen knuckles on display yesterday at the Rogers Centre as a cast of CFL greats helped launch a TSN venture to find the league's 50 greatest players.
It's a noble project that will culminate in a televised unveiling of the Top 50 in November.
But a conspiracy theorist might have deduced there was more at work here than a celebration of the league's rich history. After all, the league's broadcasting deal is up at the end of next season and preliminary talks have already begun on a new deal.
That may or may not have been why CTV Inc. president Rick Brace was on hand. He could have been there to get autographs, but he also might have been making a statement that the CTV-TSN entity plans to keep CFL broadcasts to itself starting in 2008.
In the past, TSN has held the CFL rights and then sold off a package of regular-season games, the playoffs and the Grey Cup to the CBC. But there are more than a few rumblings around the business that TSN's escalating war with the public broadcaster may lead to the big games moving to CTV, leaving the CBC out of football for the first time in more than 50 years.
"We haven't determined where we're going," said TSN president Phil King.
There are many reasons to believe the CBC could be squeezed out.
Every broadcaster in Canada would love to have the Grey Cup. It and the Super Bowl rank behind only the Oscars and Grammys in drawing power.
The CFL division finals routinely draw more than a million viewers, too. As for scheduling, football is also a good fit for CTV. Saturday afternoon games won't disrupt the schedule while providing some valuable Canadian content.
Overall, the CFL is an attractive package. Ratings have risen every year in the last decade, though they likely will take a dip this season.
But that 7 per cent drop on TSN and 9 per cent on CBC come with an explanation. An extra five blackouts, poor starts in Hamilton and Toronto and a dearth of compelling games have all hurt audiences.
But there's something more at work here. The CTV group is at war with the CBC and CEO Ivan Fecan is known as a man who prefers crushing the opposition to winning 3-2 in overtime.
Word is he was less than happy when the CBC stole the World Cup last week. A Grey Cup package might return the smile to his face.
There are other possibilities, of course. The CBC could come up with enough money to persuade TSN to maintain the status quo. Global could even get involved.
Either way, CFL commissioner Tom Wright should be able to achieve his goal of improving on the $45 million in rights fees the last five-year deal produced.
"Rights fees aren't everything," Wright said yesterday, "but we do anticipate an increase."
And Wright insisted his lame-duck status won't affect TV talks, which could mean a deal sooner rather than later.
NOTES: Because of CFL and Blue Jays conflicts, Sunday's Dover 400 race won't be on the conventional outlets in Canada. However, Rogers will show the race on Channel 59. It will also air on TSN's HD channel as well as on Rogers digital and Bell ExpressVu. ... Global is expected to announce that it has a new PGA deal. That includes the Canadian Open, which will be produced by CBS and the Golf Channel. ... One of Canada's best-known sports anchors, Jim Van Horne has resigned from Rogers Sportsnet. Van Horne, a victim of Sportsnet's drive to attract younger viewers, was unhappy with his diminished role. ... Tie Domi joked this week that his new role on TSN might require a tape delay. The fact he uttered several expletives during his press conference confirmed that. ... Sirius satellite radio will carry all Chelsea soccer games live starting tomorrow."[url=http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1158875419705&call_pageid=972053291757&col=972053257289]http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/Conten ... 2053257289[/url]