CTV scoops ‘Hockey Theme’

A brewing cultural revolution was averted yesterday, when the private net nabbed the ditty while the public broadcaster kept dickering.

The good news for hockey fans is that the Hockey Night in Canada theme is not leaving the airwaves. The bad news, in particular for CBC, is that after 40 years it is no longer the theme to its flagship sportscast, and will instead be playing on CTV, TSN and RDS.

CTV announced yesterday that it had scooped ‘all rights… in perpetuity’ to the rousing composition – known simply as ‘The Hockey Theme’ – cutting short efforts by CBC to restart talks with its composer.

Talks between CBC and Copyright Music & Visuals, the Toronto rights shop that represents composer Dolores Claman, ended on Friday with neither side able to agree on a new licensing agreement, at which point the Ceeb announced it would drop the anthem and seek submissions from the public for a replacement, offering a prize of $100,000.

But on Monday, the Ceeb changed its tune, so to speak, and announced it was willing to bring in noted sports lawyer Gord Kirke as a mediator, making what it characterized as a last effort to save the theme and ‘its association with Hockey Night in Canada.’

The offer appears to have been ignored. CTV had been in talks with CMV since end of business on Friday, and late Monday afternoon announced it had grabbed ‘The Hockey Theme.’ The network says it will use the song on all NHL broadcasts starting this fall on TSN and RDS. It will also be used in CTV’s hockey coverage of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

‘It’s an honor and a privilege to own such a cherished piece of Canadiana,’ says sports president Rick Brace. ‘It is an iconic tune, embraced by Canadians everywhere.’

Relations had been strained between Claman and CBC for some time, in part because of a still-unresolved lawsuit she filed in 2004. CBC sports boss Scott Moore admitted to The Globe and Mail on Monday that the bad blood may have made a last-minute deal unlikely.

Claman is reported to have been seeking $2.5 million for the music, a difficult price for the CBC to pay because of its limited budget of taxpayer dollars. The details of the composer’s deal with CTV have not been disclosed, though in a statement she commended CTV for the ‘tremendous amount of respect’ it paid to her family and the song, saying: ”The Hockey Theme’ means so much to Canadians, and we know it’s in good hands with CTV.’

This is not the first time CBC has lost a bidding war with CTV over sports. The pubcaster and its partners missed out on the rights to the 2010 and 2012 Olympics when the CTV side put up a record bid of US$153 million.

Losing the theme deals an enormous cultural blow to CBC, which since 1968 has seen it grow into a musical symbol of Canada on par with the national anthem. Fans of HNIC were quick to mobilize over the weekend, forming a Facebook group (‘Save the dunt-da-DUNT- da-dunt’) and an online petition with some 8,000 names asking CBC CEO Hubert Lacroix to re-open talks. It remains to be seen how fans will react to it running on CTV instead.

From Playback Daily