SBD/April 11, 2014/Media

The CBC Will No Longer Bid On Pro Sports TV Rights Amid Massive Budget Cuts

The CBC on Thursday announced that it will "no longer compete with private broadcasters for rights to televise pro sports," and that amateur sports such as the Olympics will only be bid on if the net "can be assured it will break even," according to Curtis Rush of the TORONTO STAR. The news comes as the net, which already is a "bit player" in the pro sports world, plans to cut 657 positions to save C$130M "in order to balance the budget over the next two years." CBC Exec VP/English-Language Services Heather Conway said, "The future of sports is going to look like a much slimmed down version of what it was. We are going to do amateur sports on a case-by-case basis." CBC President & CEO Hubert Lacroix said the net will continue to bid on Olympic Games "because we think we're very good at it." Conway said of airing the Olympics, "You can collaborate with other broadcasters. You can partner with people. You can use flexible workforce arrangements to achieve those, and we demonstrated that pretty thoroughly with Sochi." CBC host Scott Russell said that the net needs to find "creative ways to get all amateur sports on the positive side" of breaking even. He added that various ideas include "moving more sports like figure skating to prime time where numbers are better than in the afternoon slots, getting sports federations to reduce broadcast rights fees to events and even share the production costs." Rush reports 42% of the CBC's sports department "will be laid off," cutting 38 sports jobs "from 90 current positions." Those cuts "are not related to hockey, but there will be some impact to hockey operations in the future" (TORONTO STAR, 4/11).

LOSS OF "HNIC" PARTIALLY TO BLAME? In Toronto, Joel Eastwood reports Lacroix blamed part of the CBC's "fiscal shortfall on the loss" of "HNIC," which will move to Rogers Sportsnet after the '13-14 NHL season. The net at the same time is "absorbing the full brunt" of a C$115M funding cut that was part of the '12 federal budget. The layoffs will "begin this summer" (TORONTO STAR, 4/11). The FINANCIAL POST's Christine Dobby notes the CBC sent "far fewer staff to Russia" for the Sochi Games than for previous Olympics. It did "much of its editing work from its studios in Toronto" (FINANCIAL POST, 4/11).

SHAKING LIKE A LEAF ON A TREE: In Toronto, Rob Longley reports Thursday night's Maple Leafs-Panthers game was the final broadcast for Leafs TV this season, and with the "changing landscape of NHL broadcasting in Canada ... the future of the network is very much in doubt." Both on- and off-air staff "have not been advised whether the network will exist next season -- or if it does, in what form" (TORONTO SUN, 4/11).
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