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Big Bang averted: CBC, CTV back off from language fight

The Big Bang Theory (CBS, CTV, 8 p.m.) is network television's most-watched comedy series.

The fight for Saturday night television viewers started with a Big Bang, but has ended with a whimper as the CBC backs away from a legal threat intended to stop rival CTV from using the phrase "Big Bang Night In Canada."

The skirmish was started a few weeks ago when Bell said it would replace its regular Saturday night programming with four hours of the popular Big Bang Theory, in a bid to capture the viewers who would normally be watching Hockey Night In Canada.

With the NHL on hiatus thanks to the lockout, Canada's networks are competing fiercely to capture Saturday night viewers who were once glued to the CBC (and the advertisers who want to reach them).

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CBC's lawyers took notice of Bell's language when its rival announced its Saturday night plans, and sent a letter demanding it stop using "In Canada" in its promotional material because it could confuse viewers and drag down the value of its Saturday night staple.

"Big Bang Night in Canada depreciates the goodwill of CBC's trademark," CBC warned Bell Media in a letter sent Oct. 4. "It uses a distinctive feature of the trademark which reduces the esteem of CBC's trademark, dilutes CBC's trademark and directly entices viewers from CBC."

Bell responded via press release Friday, taking the opportunity to make fun of the CBC. It said it would drop "In Canada" from its promos so it could "help confused viewers everywhere."

"Out of deep respect for the millions of viewers that CBC has alleged are confused and in the spirit of the Lady Byng trophy, CTV today pledged that it will heed the request and rebrand its Saturday night programming as Big Bang Night on CTV," the broadcaster said. "Hopefully, the move will prevent further 'reducing the esteem' of CBC's programming."

The salvo seemed to catch executives on both side of the issue off guard, who were left scrambling to track down the letter and figure out who was leading the public relations response.

CBC quickly backed away from the manufactured scandal, saying its "brand police" overreacted.

"CBC is very protective and proud of the HNIC brand but in this case someone was a little too enthusiastic," said CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson. "We've since retracted the letter sent to Bell."

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