'Hockey Night' Theme Changes Owners... (Sigh)
Even Colbert I could handle. But this? This is just wrong.
CBC has lost more than a good theme song this time round; they've lost the plot, the nation's trust, their respect, and whatever little public goodwill toward the 'public' broadcaster that was left.
The National Hockey League season may be over, but one of the top stories in the Canadian TV biz in recent days has been a classic hockey soap opera.
The theme song to "Hockey Night in Canada," pubcaster CBC's flagship Saturday night hockey show, is changing owners after four decades.
The ditty has been bought by CBC's archrival, commercial broadcaster CTV, which has taken all rights in perpetuity to the hockey theme song written in 1968 by Canadian Dolores Claman.
CBC had been unable to come to an agreement with Claman and her publisher, Copyright Music & Visuals, over payment for use of the song. So the pubcaster announced it would hold a contest to find a new theme song.
That left execs at CTV, notably CEO Ivan Fecan and sports president Rick Brace, free to snap up the song.
It's a major coup for CTV because it owns two sports channels, TSN in English and RDS in French, and NHL hockey is a big part of the schedule on both.
The "Hockey Night in Canada" theme will become the signature tune for hockey broadcasts on both channels.
The timing couldn't be better for CTV because it just inked a six-year deal with the NHL, snaring rights to 70 regular-season games per year, and, for the first time, each game will feature at least one Canadian team. (Games with Canadian teams garner much better ratings than matchups with two American NHL teams.)
"We viewed the theme not just as the 'Hockey Night in Canada' theme but as a hockey theme, and to be associated with our second national anthem is huge," Brace says.
CTV also has rights to the 2010 and 2012 Olympics, and Brace says the theme music will be used for the hockey games at the 2010 games.
Disappointed CBC execs have been telling anyone who will listen that Claman was asking for too much money, reportedly some $2.5 million, for use of the song. And they argue that viewers don't tune in to a show for its theme music.
That's likely true, but this song does occupy a unique place in Canadian culture. It is the country's most famous piece of music this side of "Oh Canada," and the media has been full of outraged comments from hockey fans upset that the number will no longer open the broadcast that has been Canada's main hockey TV showcase since NHL games first appeared on the smallscreen in the early 1950s.
Brace, however, is happy to have the theme song that's so near and dear to the hearts of Canadians.
"It brings back all kinds of memories of watching hockey when I was a kid," he says.