CIS may gain TV coverage

Proposed new networks plan to include interuniversity sports

If applications for new sports channels are approved, CIS athletes may get more time on national television.

The Canadian Olympic Committee launched an application in January for two new channels focused on amateur sports—the English-language Canadian Amateur Sports Network (CASN) and the French-language Réseau des sports amateur canadiens (RSAC).

Steve Keogh, Canadian Olympic Committee communications manager, said their channels would likely include significant CIS content if their application was approved by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Committee (CRTC).

“We hope to highlight amateur sport at all levels,” he said. “Not just the Olympic level, but the interuniversity level.”

Keogh said the committee hasn’t decided which sports and championships would be televised on the new channels.

“The challenge is—and it’s a great challenge to have, actually—there is so much sport going on, and not just at the CIS level or the university level,” he said. “If and when we do receive approval from the CRTC, we’ll have to sit down, and our program director will really have to take a good hard look [at what to televise]. It will be a lot of planning, because there’s no shortage of events and obviously our goal is to bring as many athletes into the spotlight as possible.”

Keogh said the high quality of CIS competition makes it an attractive television property.

“There are Olympic athletes that play CIS sports, and obviously a high, high calibre of athletes that play all across CIS.” Keogh said the COC’s application is under review by the CRTC. Once the CRTC and COC agree on modifications to the application, it enters a “gazetting period” when the public and other companies can comment on the proposal.

Keogh said the earliest their bid could be approved would be in the fall of 2008.

The CBC launched an application in January for its own all-sports channel. Scott Moore, CBC Sports’ executive director, said they would also look at televising CIS sports if their application is approved by the CRTC, but they haven’t had any concrete discussions with CIS.

“I think it’s a great product that’s underexposed at the moment,” he said.

Moore said their application proposes 35 per cent of their programming as amateur sports content and is about to be released for public comment.

“I think the earliest the channel would hit the airwaves would be January of 2009, but it’s more likely to be September 2009.”

Moore said the CRTC could approve both the CBC and COC bids, as he doesn’t see the COC bid as direct competition due in part to its focus on amateur sports content.

“It’s a crowded marketplace, the sports broadcast marketplace, but these are two very different applications with very different business plans,” he said.

CIS Chief Executive Officer Marg McGregor said an increased television presence is key to growing the CIS brand.

“Television is king,” she said. “We know what a great product university sport is, but until lots of Canadians have the opportunity to actually see it, they won’t necessarily know how great it is.”

CIS Director of Marketing Peter Metuzals said CIS hasn’t had extensive discussions with the CBC yet, but they’ve had consultations with the COC about their proposed channels. Metuzals said CIS hopes the COC’s proposed English-language channel would televise some preliminary games of the national championships that currently aren’t seen on TV, as well as some regular season games.

Metuzals said CIS is committed to its deal with Rogers Sportsnet to televise the men’s hockey championships for two more years, and currently is negotiating a renewal of their agreement with The Score to televise various championships, including football and men’s and women’s basketball. Any exposure on new networks would supplement their coverage rather than replace it.

Metuzals said CIS subsidizes some of the broadcasting costs of Sportsnet and The Score. The COC’s proposed channels state on their website that they would pay all broadcasting costs, allocate up to one-third of advertising time to the amateur sport organizations for free and establish an amateur sports fund that organizations such as CIS could apply to.

Queen’s Communications and Sports Information Officer Mike Grobe said the athletics department would be very interested in getting more games televised.

“We’d absolutely love to see more Queen’s sports on TV,” he said. “We anticipate we’d be involved.”

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