Ch. 2 blocked out of Grey Cup

November 24, 1994|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Sun Staff Writer

The verdict is in: Sunday's Grey Cup from Vancouver, British Columbia, will not be televised on Channel 2.

WMAR-TV had sought to pick up the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.'s feed of the game between the CFLs and the B.C. Lions, but it was blocked from doing so yesterday when ESPN, the United States' broadcast rights holder, stepped in.

The game will air live on ESPN2, the year-old all-sports network, which is not a part of the city's United Artists cable system.

However, ESPN and United Artists reached agreement earlier this week to place the game feed on Channel 41, which they did two weeks ago for the Eastern Division semifinal. A shortened replay of the game will air Monday at 9 p.m. on ESPN, which is seen in the city.

In light of that development, and the fact that the network probably would have lost a significant number of viewers in the one U.S. market where Grey Cup interest would be highest if an over-the-air station were to telecast the game, ESPN effectively said no to Channel 2.

"We have exclusive broadcast rights in the United States, and that does not allow for an on-the-air existence," said Josh Krulewitz, an ESPN spokesman. "We've expressed that to the league, which was part of our arrangement."

Said Joe Lewin, Channel 2's vice president and station manager: "That means those without cable don't get to see the game, thanks to ESPN. We had an opportunity to do something really good, and [ESPN] stopped us."

There had been some miscommunication earlier yesterday between the network and the league, which announced that ESPN had released broadcast rights to Channel 2.

Instead, the Bristol, Conn., network had only granted permission to United Artists to pick up its signal.

"I've spoken to [CFLs owner] Jim Speros about this and he understands," said Michael Murray, the league's vice president for communications. "ESPN also stepped forward to increase their penetration into the market."

Murray said that the league plans, in future talks with ESPN, "to see what we can do to help our local television holders" in similar situations.

Lewin said the league attempted to continue negotiations with ESPN, but, in view of the Thanksgiving holiday and the need to firm up weekend scheduling, he imposed a 5 p.m. deadline on a decision.

In a related development, Murray announced that WJFK (1300 AM) will originate its own feed of Sunday's game, meaning that team broadcasters Bruce Cunningham, Bruce Laird and Joe Washington will announce the game live from Vancouver.

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