CBC mum on NHL rights talks

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TORONTO -- The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. on Thursday remained tight-lipped over reports it is expected to retain its lucrative National Hockey League broadcast rights while losing TV rights to the Canadian Football League's championship Grey Cup game to rival cable sports channel the Sports Network.

A CBC spokesman offered no comment on news reports that the public broadcaster was negotiating to extend its rights for "Hockey Night in Canada," its Saturday night NHL telecast and the longest-running show on Canadian TV.

The CBC also is looking to continue airing the NHL's Stanley Cup Championship round each spring after its current TV rights deal runs out at the end of the NHL's 2007-08 season.

A spokesman for the rival CTV national TV network, which also owns TSN, said the broadcaster was holding informal discussions on TV rights with the NHL's front office in New York because TSN airs NHL games on weeknights as part of a separate cable agreement with the professional hockey league.

But CTV executives downplayed media speculation that the private network will dig deeply into its pockets to wrest the TV rights to Saturday night NHL games and Stanley Cup championship rounds away from the CBC.

Separately, the CFL, Canada's professional football league, confirmed Thursday that it was negotiating with the CTV to renew a cable agreement that will allow TSN to continue airing certain CFL games after the current agreement expires at the end of the 2007 season.

But the CFL spokesman said a confidentiality agreement meant no details on those discussions were available.

Both the CBC and TSN offered no comment when asked about TSN and CTV possibly wresting away the broadcast rights to CFL games away from the public broadcaster.
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