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The Grey Cup is officially money in the bank for the CBC. The network has sold all of its commercial time for the Canadian Football League championship game, according to advertising sources.

"The last five or six spots went for around $65,000," an executive said.

It's believed the CBC's base rate for a 30-second spot was about $75,000.

A year ago at this time, the CBC had failed to sell out for the Grey Cup. Sluggish sales were attributed to the lockout of employees, which shut down most of the network in August and September.

This year, advertisers snapped up the remaining inventory last week in the hope that the divisional finals on Sunday would produce a championship game involving the Toronto Argonauts and B.C. Lions, the teams based in Canada's two largest English-language markets.

That dream matchup ended when the Argos lost to the Montreal Alouettes.

"Now, it's just same old, same old," an ad source said. "The audiences won't be as high."

With or without the Argos, the Cup telecast is a good investment for advertisers.

"It's still the No. 1 audience deliverer in the country for a Canadian-produced show," a source said. "The CBC does a good job on the coverage and it's a cheaper buy than the Super Bowl."

Global Television charges about $100,000 for a Super Bowl 30-second spot.

As a rule, the Grey Cup and Super Bowl each draw television audiences in excess of three million.

Bad call by CFL

When the CFL can't address basic principles of TV coverage, it makes you wonder what it can get right.

For years, the league has consistently spaced the two games in playoff doubleheaders three hours apart. The problem is, a network can't cover a playoff game adequately in three hours, and it showed on Sunday.

The East Division final (Argos-Alouettes) started at 1 p.m. EST, followed by the West Division final (Saskatchewan Roughriders-Lions) at 4 p.m. Not surprisingly, the first game ran well past 4 p.m., forcing the second game, in Vancouver, to start at about 4:15 p.m. Even then, the CBC had to double-box the picture, showing the final few plays in the East and the kickoff in the West.

If the Eastern final had gone to overtime, it might not have been over until 4:30 p.m. What's more, the squeeze denied the CBC the opportunity to properly wrap up the Eastern game by interviewing some of the participants.

The National Football League allocates 3 hours 15 minutes between games during the regular season and 3½ hours during the playoffs. That's because, in the postseason, opening celebrations take longer and there are usually a larger number of delays.

Canadian university football understands this. Canadian Interuniversity Sport spaced its Cup games on Saturday, carried by The Score, 3½ hours apart.

As one sports producer noted, Sunday was the CFL's second most important day of the year, yet the CBC was unable to give it proper coverage.

Trevor Pilling, the network's executive producer of football, said the three-hour time allotment is a league decision. Chris McCracken, the head of broadcasting for the CFL, could not be reached for comment, but Perry Lefko, the league's director of communications, said the scheduling of doubleheaders would be re-evaluated at the end of the season.

Best host city

A London-based consulting firm ranks Melbourne, Australia, the best location in the world to hold a sporting event. ArkSports Ltd. took into account the number and the importance of annual sports events held in a particular city, as well as facilities, transportation, accommodation, government support, weather, public interest and quality of life. Melbourne was followed by Paris, Sydney, Australia, Berlin, London and Madrid. New York, at seventh, was the only North American city to make the list. Beijing, Tokyo and Cape Town, South Africa, rounded out the top 10.

The CBC will air classic Grey Cup games each weeknight at midnight local times: tonight, 1968 Ottawa-Calgary; tomorrow, 1972 Hamilton-Saskatchewan; Thursday, 1988 Winnipeg-B.C.; and Friday, 1991 Toronto-Calgary. As well, the digital channel ESPN Classic Canada will carry vintage Cup games, beginning at 8 p.m. on Friday with 1988 Winnipeg-B.C.

The Score will shoot the Vanier Cup, on Nov. 25 in Saskatoon, in high-definition television.

Retired National Hockey League star Mark Messier will make his debut tonight as a guest commentator on the New York Rangers-New Jersey Devils game, carried on Versus (formerly OLN) in the United States. He will appear on six telecasts.

The Argos' season is over, but running back John Avery isn't finished with TV. He will appear in the second episode of The Comedy Network's new series called Punched Up. The series will have its debut at 10:30 p.m. EST tomorrow. Avery will appear on Nov. 22.

Rating the weekend

Hockey. Predators-Wings TSN 234,000 Well down from season average of 476,000.
Soccer. Manchester City-Newcastle Sportsnet 66,000 Good number for Game 1.
Soccer. Everton-Aston Villa Sportsnet 95,000 Excellent for second game.
Soccer. Blackburn-Manchester United Sportsnet 176,000 EPL leader Man.U hits the jackpot.
Football. Yates Cup Score 74,000 Ottawa-Laurier draws biggest CIS audience of season.
Women's hockey. Four Nations final, U.S.-Canada TSN 261,000 Largest ever for Four Nations game.
Football. Hardy Cup Score 70,000 Man.-Sask. draws second-largest CIS audience of season.
Hockey. Canadiens-Leafs CBC 1,404,000 Up from season average of about 1,350,000.
Figure skating. Skate Canada gala CTV 724,000 Up against Hockey Night.
Hockey. Flames-Canucks CBC 824,000 Increase over season average of about 715,000.
Auto racing. Checkers Auto Parts 500 TSN 288,000 On target for NASCAR.
Football. Argos-Alouettes CBC 1,177,000 Above 1,100,000 last year (same teams).
Football. Roughriders-Lions CBC 1,350,000 Down from 1,586,000 (Eskimos-Lions).
Football. Bears-Giants TSN 315,000 Strong audience.