Canadian Nets Clash Over 'The Big Bang Theory' Promotion During NHL Lockout

11:11 AM PST 10/12/2012 by Etan Vlessing
CBS

The league work stoppage has unleashed a legal fight as CTV programs a two-hour block of the U.S. sitcom against the CBC's "Hockey Night in Canada" telecast on Saturday night.

TORONTO – The NHL lockout may have put the hockey season on ice for now.

But that hasn’t stopped Canadian broadcasters CBC and CTV dropping the gloves over whether promotion of a two-hour block of The Big Bang Theory on Saturday night can include the words “In Canada.”

“We would ask you to immediately stop using Big Bang Night in Canada, as this constitutes trade-mark infringement and depreciates the goodwill of CBC’s mark contrary to the Canadian Trade-marks Act and common law,” the CBC in an October 4 letter from its “law department” to CTV-parent Bell Media.

Bell Media, for its part, agreed Friday to rebrand its comedy block on Saturday night as Big Bang Night on CTV, but not without mocking its primetime rival.

“Hopefully, the move will prevent further ‘reducing the esteem’ of CBC’s programming,” Bell Media said in a statement.

In reply, Kirstine Stewart, executive vp of English services at the CBC, welcomed the Bell Media climb-down over the use of "In Canada" to promote a U.S. show up against the Hockey Night in Canada juggernaut on Saturday night.

"We're happy Bell Media agrees what happens 'In Canada' stays in Hockey Night in Canada," Stewart said Friday.

The CBC topper insists an initial call by the CBC to Bell Media was met by a request by the pubcaster's legal department to put its complaint in writing.

"Sounds like they needed needed some Canadian content to add to their Big Bang strategy," Stewart added.

The food fight between the CBC and CTV follows the NHL management lockout leading the CBC to air repeats of classic pro hockey games of yesteryear to preserve the audience and ad revenue of its long-running Hockey Night in Canada telecast on Saturday nights.

At the same time, CTV, looking to claw back audience share on Saturday night during the NHL lockout, scheduled a two-hour block of The Big Bang Theory against Hockey Night in Canada from this Saturday night.

The U.S. sitcom is already the top-rated comedy on Canadian TV, airing in simulcast on CTV on Thursday nights.

The CBC contended the use of Big Bang Night in Canada promotion breached the pubcaster’s trademark for Hockey Night in Canada, and urged CTV to pull the promotion from the market.

Bell Media, apparently amused by the CBC feeling hockey can be confused with an American sitcom about four socially awkward scientists, poured scorn on its rival for issuing the Oct. 4 legal missive.

Bell Media added it was reviewing its schedule to ensure no additional “confusion” with CBC programming existed.

“Although similarities were found, Bell Media confirms it has no issue with CBC imitating its specialty channel ESPN Classic with the airing of classic hockey games on Saturday nights, as long as CBC is not concerned that viewers may interpret that Gretzky, Gilmour, and Lemieux have come out of retirement,” the private broadcaster added.

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