In a few weeks, the CTV-Rogers consortium will announce its on-air talent for the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010.
One of the high-profile hires will be Catriona Le May Doan, the Olympic gold medalist, who will analyze speed skating.
A different sort of buzz has been created by the decision to assign TSN hockey announcer Chris Cuthbert to the much coveted job of calling the gold-medal game of the men's hockey tournament.
Cuthbert's colleague at TSN, Gord Miller, was passed over for the game despite his seniority at the network.
That decision can be explained this way: When Cuthbert was laid off by the CBC in February of 2005, he was pursued by TSN to join the network as a football and hockey announcer. Even though Cuthbert had little leverage, given he was unemployed, his agent, Elliott Kerr, pushed hard, as part of the deal, for Cuthbert to call the Olympic gold-medal game. TSN agreed.
CTV's hockey coverage should be strong. The talent, in addition to Cuthbert and Miller, will include TSN's Pierre McGuire, Darren Dreger, Bob McKenzie and probably Ray Ferraro.
CTV will be the principal Olympic broadcaster, but CTV-owned TSN as well as Rogers Sportsnet and the Rogers Omni stations also will provide coverage.
Curling should be a strength. The TSN team of Vic Rauter, Linda Moore and Ray Turnbull is experienced and will have plenty of work leading up to the Games. TSN owns the rights to the major Canadian tournaments.
For figure skating, Rod Black has been calling skating events for years. Jamie Salé and David Pelletier, the big story at the Salt Lake Games in 2002, are marquee hires. Don't be surprised if Kurt Browning also is involved.
But, for the play-by-play of other sports, the Olympic broadcast could have problems. That's because some announcers will go into the Games without much, if any, practical experience.
CTV, TSN and Sportsnet won't air, aside from highlights, the international skiing, sliding and speed-skating events leading up to the Olympics.
The CBC will continue to cover those competitions on Saturday afternoons.
Passing on live event coverage is a questionable decision by the Olympic networks because it will send viewers to another channel to watch future Canadian Olympians. It also denies announcers experience in calling the races.
Sportsnet's Gerry Dobson and Brian Stemmle, who are expected to announce alpine skiing, should be fine because they have called events in the past.
But announcers in other sports will learn through dry runs in the studio calling races off a monitor.
In terms of programming, CTV is working to develop a style closer to what we've seen on NBC than the CBC.
The plan is for the CTV prime-time show, like NBC's, to be tightly scripted, with the live coverage supplemented heavily with features.
In the past, the CBC used features for its Olympic coverage, but the telecasts were less structured than what is planned by CTV.
Brian Williams, the CTV prime-time host, thrived under the somewhat looser, more extemporaneous system of the CBC, but insiders believe he will adapt easily to the CTV model.
The NHL is expected to extend its TV deal with NBC through the 2009-10 season. The profit-sharing arrangement has made money for both sides, but not a great deal. The NHL and NBC each earned a profit of less than $5-million (U.S.) from the 2007-08 season, according to sources.
The extension makes sense for the NHL, which would have games airing on NBC, the U.S. Olympic network, in January of 2010 before the hockey tournament in February.
KUBEK TO THE HALL
Tony Kubek, the long-time Toronto Blue Jays analyst and a mainstay at NBC, was announced yesterday as winner of the Ford C. Frick Award for major contributions to baseball broadcasting. He was selected by a Baseball Hall of Fame committee.
Kubek, 72, joined the Jays' broadcast in the team's inaugural season, 1977, and stayed until 1989. A former New York Yankee shortstop, he worked for NBC from 1965 through 1989 and finished his broadcasting career with the Yankees in 1994.
Three additional broadcasters with Canadian connections were among the 10 finalists in a Frick online fan ballot. They were the late Tom Cheek, the Jays' radio voice from 1977 to 2004; Jacques Doucet, the French-language announcer of Montreal Expos games from 1972 to 2004; and Dave Van Horne, who called Expos games from 1969 to 2000. In the fan balloting, Doucet and Cheek placed in the top three. Kubek said he wished Cheek could be "standing alongside me."