MONTREAL — Canuck paybox TSN has stolen the Grey Cup, one of the hottest TV properties in the Great White North, from pubcaster CBC, where the annual championship for the Canadian Football League has aired for almost 50 years.
Cup garnered 3.2 million viewers for CBC in November.
TSN announced Wednesday that the network, along with sister French-language sports net RDS, has inked a five-year deal with the CFL to air all 72 regular-season games, four divisional playoff games and the Grey Cup game.
Agreement includes all broadcast and digital rights in Canada in English and French beginning in 2008. TSN would not put a pricetag on the deal.
“For Canada, this represents a mammoth sea change in how major rights-holders regard (pay TV) in English Canada,” said CTV prexy Rick Brace. “This is akin to the Super Bowl moving to ESPN and is a tremendous credit to the teams at TSN, RDS and our CFL partners.”
TSN is in the midst of a deal with the CFL that allows the CBC to carry many games and also gives CBC exclusive rights to broadcast the Grey Cup. That deal expires next year.
The Grey Cup may also air on terrestrial broadcaster CTV in 2008, as TSN and CTV are owned by CTVglobemedia (formerly Bell Globemedia).
CBC execs expressed disappointment with the CFL’s decision to go with TSN.
“After more than 50 years of the CFL on CBC, we were not given the opportunity by the CFL to participate in the bidding,” said CBC spokesman Jeff Keay. “We would’ve given access to the CFL games to all Canadians.”
Last year the pubcaster lost the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver and the 2012 Summer Olympic Games to CTVglobemedia and Rogers Media.
CBC still has a range of sports, including the National Hockey League and soccer from international body FIFA, including the World Cup tourney.
However, there is talk in Canuck media circles that CTV and TSN may bid for NHL action — CBC’s main cash cow. CBC’s contract with the NHL expires at the end of the 2007-08 season.