Networks already eyeing 'Hockey Night in Canada' rights two years out

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TORONTO - Most of the major Canadian TV networks are revealing their fall lineups this week, but speculation is already mounting over who might nab CBC's beloved "Hockey Night in Canada" when broadcast rights come up for grabs in two years.

Rogers Media president Keith Pelley hinted to the Globe and Mail on Tuesday morning that his network is interested in the iconic franchise.

"Sports is a major focus,”Pelley told the newspaper. "Is 'Hockey Night' part of our plan? It's a little premature to talk about details, but we certainly have to take a look."

Pelley was not available for comment later in the day, despite repeated interview requests.

Handlers said executives were focused on a splashy "upfront" event Tuesday afternoon where they revealed Rogers' upcoming fall and winter TV schedule.

The rights to "HNIC" come up two years from now. With featured commentators including Ron MacLean and Don Cherry, the show is consistently at the top of the ratings.

Losing the rights would be a major body blow to the CBC, already struggling with devastating budget cuts that have slashed original programming hours.

CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson said the public broadcaster "absolutely" will be pursuing NHL rights when the time comes and will do what it can to keep it on the network.

"We have every intention of retaining 'Hockey Night in Canada,'" said Thompson.

But they could face competition from more than just Rogers Media.

Bell Media, which owns TSN, suggested it would be interested as well.

"We would most likely take a look at it when the time comes, as we would look at any sports contract that becomes available and that could strengthen our business," said spokesman Scott Henderson.

Shaw Media reveals its slate of fall shows Wednesday, while Bell Media—which also owns CTV—is set to unveil its schedule on Thursday.

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