New network fishing for CIAU
By John Intini
The Canadian Television network is looking to catch a little Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union sports action in their new net this year, said Doug Beeforth, vice president of sports at CTV.
"There is not much Canadian university sports on television," he said. "Hopefully we will be able to really tap the market with our new channel."
The network is currently in the process of filling time slots for the new specialty sports channel, Sports Net, which will begin broadcasting this November.
Tom Curzon, a spokesman for the station, said the company is actively preparing a bid to present to the CIAU in order to gain the rights to add them to their inaugural fall lineup.
"We have already got a large contract with the NHL but have to find a diverse product to market if we want to compete," he said. "We feel that the CIAU, although not great from a revenue point of view, would give us that added diversity."
The channel, which only recently earned the approval of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, will be part of an additional cable package made available across Canada.
The greatest advantage of the new station will be its ability to provide regional coverage based on a unique system of signal splitting. This will permit the telecast of four different sporting events at the same time, depending on where in the country the event is being broadcasted from.
John McConachie, director of marketing for the CIAU, said although there has been a number of rumours circulating, he has not received any formal bid from CTV.
"I haven't heard from anyone at CTV for two years," he said. "Their initial plan sounded really good but they only recently got the go ahead from the CRTC and have yet to contact us."
Currently the CIAU is under contract with TSN which has the rights to a number of CIAU-sanctioned events through March 1999. At the present time, TSN has only a single signal which does not allow for consistent regional coverage. McConachie would not comment on whether the CIAU would like to have deals with both companies, adding it would all come down to negotiations which would effect whether or not the companies would want exclusive rights. He did however speak about the advantages of the system to better promote Canadian culture through sport.
"Obviously any coverage is good, so when there is the possibility of consistent national coverage, you take notice," he said. "There is obviously an interest in university sport which is evident by TSN's continued interest."
McConachie also commented on the notion that the CIAU is a tough sell and although the regular season games on TSN have at times not been chart-toppers, basketball, hockey and football championships have all attracted high viewership ratings.
Beeforth reiterated McConachie's feelings that the possibility of coverage on the Sports Net channel could breathe a whole new life into Canadian university sports.
"The universities will see an upward spiral in interest as people see their product," Beeforth said. "More money for programs means better programs."
McConachie expects a formal bid will be on the table for next season in the near future.