CFL rushes off to Sports Network

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TORONTO -- The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. will be frozen out of Canadian Football League telecasts beginning in 2008 after Canadian sports channel the Sports Network (TSN) on Wednesday signed a new TV rights deal with the league.

The new dea will see all 77 CFL games per-season -- including four divisional playoff matches and the Grey Cup championship game -- air on TSN.

The deal brings an end to the CBC's long-standing sublicensing agreement that allowed it to air the Grey Cup game.

The current TV deal between the CFL and TSN, signed in 2003, obligated the cable sports channel to sub-license a number of regular-season and playoff games as well as the Grey Cup to conventional television.

The new deal still grants sub-licensing rights to TSN as the CFL's master licensee for cable and broadcast rights. But TSN president Phil King told reporters during a conference call Wednesday that no discussions on sub-licensing were planned at this time, and that every CFL game will air on TSN's cable channel, high-definition channels and the TSN Broadband Internet channel.

Rick Brace, president of TSN-parent CTV Inc., added there were no plans to air the Grey Cup on CTV, a conventional broadcast network.

"The bottom line is, we want the game on TSN. That's where this deal has led. Could it be on CTV? That could be a possibility, but it (Grey Cup) will not leave TSN. There could be a simulcast (with the CTV)," Brace said.

The CFL's new five-year deal with TS, includes the digital rights for the professional football games, including broadband, mobile, video-on-demand and interactive TV.

During the remaining year left on the CFL's current contract with TSN, the cable channel will continue to share TV broadcasts of football telecasts with the CBC, with the cable channels mostly featuring Friday night games and the public broadcaster airing football matchups on Saturday afternoons.

"We're very disappointed that after more than 50 seasons of the CFL on the CBC, the CFL has made this decision," CBC spokesman Jeff Keay said Wednesday.

 The CFL bargained exclusively with TSN, disallowing the CBC from offering a counter-bid that, Keay added, would have made all CFL games available to Canadians on conventional TV, as opposed to cable, which reaches into around 90% of domestic households.
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