CTV Nabs Exclusive Rights to Canadiens NHL Games

The multiyear agreement will see CTV subsidiary the Sports Network air 24 games this season on an alternate feed.

TORONTO -- Canadian network CTV moved a step closer to stealing hockey away from the rival CBC on Thursday by seeing its cable sports channel become the exclusive English-language broadcaster of Montreal Canadiens games.

The multiyear agreement will see the Sports Network, a CTV subsidiary, air 24 games this season featuring the country’s storied NHL franchise in Montreal on a TSN alternate feed.

And another 30 Canadiens games will air in each of the 2011-12 and 2012-13 NHL regular seasons as part of a deal negotiated directly with the Montreal NHL team.

TSN is already on board to air another 16 Canadiens games this season as part of its national broadcast package hammered out with the pro hockey league.

TSN's ramping up coverage of the Canadiens follows parent CTV in recent years increasingly snagging the rights to high-profile pro hockey and football games popular with advertisers from the CBC, Canada’s public broadcaster.

RDS, CTV’s Quebec version of TSN, already has the rights to the French-language broadcasts of Canadiens games.

Ironically, Bell Canada, which last month proposed a $3.2 billion deal to acquire CTV, already owns the naming rights to the Bell Centre, the home arena for the Montreal Canadiens.

CBC president Hubert Lacroix on Wednesday said the public broadcaster was considering making a bid for French-language broadcast rights for Montreal games held by RDS when they come up for renewal.

But that interest could well be bravado, as CTV is widely expected to make a bid for the broadcast contract for Hockey Night in Canada with the NHL when it comes up for renewal after the 2013-14 season.

The CBC has aired NHL games on Saturday nights as part of its Hockey Night in Canada franchise since 1952, while TSN airs pro hockey games on weeknights.