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With talk of a 5- to 10-per-cent cut in its funding, Quebecor nipping at its heels and the Toronto mayor vexed with Marg Delahunty, these are not easy days at CBC. So it couldn't be happy news Thursday to hear that CTV Inc. has won the right to all the major FIFA product starting in 2015. The deal gives CTV and its TSN branch rights to the men's World Cup in 2018 and 2022, the prized women's World Cup in 2015 (being played in Canada) plus a host of other tournaments.

They include the men's and women's U-20 and U-17 World Cups, the Confederations Cup, Beach Soccer World Cup (who knew?) and the Futsal World Cup. Added to its previous deals with Major League Soccer and the European championships of 2012 and 2016, it gives TSN a wide soccer footprint in what was thought to be an area of interest for CBC, which now has the rights for the next men's World Cup scheduled for Brazil in 2014.

As it did with the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, CTV is leveraging a valuable domestic product (the 2015 women's WC) with a larger package of events that it can distribute across the entire spectrum of CTV's channels. So expect to see soccer on CTV, CTV2, TSN, TSN2, RDS, RDS2, ESPN Classic, ethnic channel partners, many websites, wireless platforms, tablets, VOD, TSN radio and, as one source says, "whatever else is invented in the next 11 years."

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This also forms a template for how CTV might handle the next national NHL TV package, which becomes effective in 2014. CBC currently has those rights, but it's expected that it will not be able to compete financially with CTV or Rogers should those broadcasters make a determined push for the prestigious Hockey Night In Canada/playoffs package when bidding begins. (Industry sources say that rights could double from their estimated $100-million/ year.)

With the possible loss of hockey in the future, it was believed CBC would try to extend its brand in soccer. The multi-ethnic/Yuppie appeal of soccer is thought to appeal to CBC core audience, and rights prices are lower in Canada than those for the NHL. CBC has heavily leveraged its current FIFA contract after losing out on the 2010/2012 Olympics. "Keeping in mind our responsibility to the stakeholders of CBC, we put forward a strong, highly competitive and financially responsible bid," said Kirstine Stewart, executive vice-president, CBC English Services. "Our commitment to the beautiful game in Canada goes beyond just what you see or hear on our various platforms. Soccer is the No. 1 participatory sport in Canada and we will continue our longstanding commitment to fostering the growth of the game in this country through grassroots initiatives like Soccer Day in Canada and Sports Day in Canada,

Ironically, CBC and CTV are currently partnering on a bid for the next Olympic TV package, which as been delayed from earlier this year. Sources tell Usual Suspects a decision on the IOC rights might not be made until December or the new year.

Second sight

The flap over the phone skills of St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa in Game 5 of the World Series Monday highlighted the technological deficiencies of the contemporary baseball dugout. To discourage spying, teams are not allowed phones, TV monitors or other communications devices beyond a phone to the bullpen.

The same goes for benches in the NFL and, to a lesser extent, the NBA. But the NHL says it has no problem with teams or players accessing the TV monitor being used by announcers posted between the benches. The issue came to light when TSN's beside-the-ice reporter Ray Ferraro casually announced that Toronto Maple Leafs forward Matt Frattin had used Ferraro's monitor to study an opposing goalie during a recent shootout. Players often consult the monitor, Ferraro told Usual Suspects.

That raised the question of perceived advantage for players who can do a little cribbing between shifts or a shootout. The NHL operations department says it has no problem with it. "We don't view this as significantly different than players looking up at video screens on scoreboards and studying the opposing goaltender during shootouts," says John Dellapina, NHL vice-president of communications.

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"What's more, virtually every team does video scouting of the opposing goaltender before games that includes far more detailed clips than could be glimpsed by leaning over to take a peek at a small monitor."

Tony LaRussa wishes.

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