CBC Girds for TV Sport Rights Battles

“We’re going to take a considerate approach to property retention and acquisition," new sports division boss Jeffrey L. Orridge says.

TORONTO -- Hold and build, or lose. That’s the new TV sports deals and acquisitions mandate at the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. for newly-hired sports division boss Jeffrey L. Orridge.

“We’re going to take a considerate approach to property retention and acquisition,” Orridge said Thursday of TV contract negotiations and future acquisitions once he joins the CBC from April 4.

The U.S. industry veteran will represent the CBC at key upcoming TV contract negotiations with the National Hockey League, where rival cable sports channel TSN is rumored to possibly take a run at the Hockey Night in Canada property.

Orridge said he will bring his existing relationships with the NHL, secured over a career that included executive stints with Reebok International, Mattel and head of legal and business affairs for the first U.S. Olympic basketball “Dream Team” in 1992.

“Bringing necessary experience and expertise in deal making and negotiating, and then implementation, that’s something I have a reputation for, as well as my colleagues at the CBC,” he explained.

The CBC is also a known-quantity with the NHL, which could see pro hockey teams return to Winnipeg and Quebec City in future years after a long focus on U.S. team expansion.

“There’s a significant amount of trust that already exists. We can be relied on. We have a history there,” Orridge insisted.

The CBC has aired Hockey Night in Canada, a showcase of NHL games on Saturday night, since 1952, and continues to air league playoff games and the Stanley Cup championship round each spring. Besides its core hockey programming, the pubcaster has other TV sporting ambitions.

The CBC drew big audiences for last year’s coverage of the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament from South Africa. But more recently, the CBC has seen rivals TSN and Rogers Sportsnet pick off national and regional rights to Major League Soccer games for teams in Toronto and Vancouver.

The pubcaster also plans upcoming coverage of the women’s FIFA World Cup soccer tournament.

And the CBC is weighing a possible bid to the International Olympic Committee for the 2014 and 2016 Olympic Games after being vastly outbid by rivals CTVglobmedia and Rogers Communications for the 2010 and 2012 Olympics.

CTV and Rogers are expected to partner up again on a joint bid for the Sochi and Rio de Janeiro Games.

In a business where muscle and leverage is everything, Orridge insists the CBC will go it alone on bidding for marquee TV sport properties, or seek partners, where it makes sense.

“There’s alternatives. Either you can do it on your own or you can do it with some people. We’re going to explore whatever makes the most sense from a strategic standpoint,” he said.

The bottom line, Orridge affirms, is the CBC will dig deep to keep its marquee TV sport properties, and find more.

“It will take resources to make further acquisitions and … CBC Sports is committed to putting together resources and acquiring the right talent to augment the incredibly world class talent that already exists at the CBC to meet challenges,” he said.

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