Just as promised when it took over the Grand Slam of Curling, Sportsnet has increased the number of events and today announced that it will continue to grow the series over the next two years.
In 2015-16, there will be seven events and the year following, eight.
Next year, five of the seven spiels will involve men’s and women’s teams. That will increase to six of eight a year later.
For next season, the confirmed dates are as follows:
· GSOC Tour Challenge (men and women) - September 8-13, 2015
· Masters (men and women) - October 27-November 1, 2015
· National (men) - November 11-15, 2015
· Canadian Open (men and women) - December 8-13, 2015
· Elite 10 (men) - March 16-20, 2016
· Players' Championship (men and women) - April 5-10, 2016
· Champions Cup (men and women) - April 26- May 1, 2016
The lineup for the following year will be as follows:
· GSOC Tour Challenge (men and women) - September 6-11, 2016
· Masters (men and women) - October 25 - 30, 2016
· National (men) - November 9-13, 2016
· Canadian Open (men and women) - December 6-11, 2016
· Event TBD (men and women) - January 5-9, 2017
· Elite 10 (men) - March 16-19, 2017
· Players' Championship (men and women) - April 11-16, 2017
· Champions Cup (men and women) - April 25-30, 2017
Two things jump out at me looking at this lineup: the first is the early start date of the kickoff event – September. The second is the last event, the Champions Cup. I’m not sure what this event is, since I always believed the Players Championship was the big finale. As well, the late date could be as much of a stretch as the early start for the first one. Oh and the 2016 Players Championship will go head to head with the Masters.
Here’s a quote via a press release from Sportsnet president and the guy who beat me on Bumper Stumpers, Scott Moore:
“Canada’s appetite for premium curling coverage continues to grow at a great rate. Sportsnet remains committed to growing the sport in Canada, adding more events to Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling that shine the spotlight on both international and home-grown talent while elevating the profile of curling’s up-and-coming stars in communities across the country.”
This is a bold move for Sportsnet but one that has obviously been made with the ratings clearly in mind.
Simply put, curling draws respectable numbers and offers up good live broadcasts that can be slotted in to times when there are otherwise no live events. You can have live curling at 9 am on a Thursday, something that’s not always possible in other sports.
And live sports is a big seller these days in a broadcast world where Netflix and PVRs reign.
The other significant factor is that Sportsnet owns the property, meaning no rights fees although there operational costs.
If you’re a curling fan, it means you won't have many missed weekends without curling on the TV.
For the top men's teams, this brings the dream of full time professional curling closer. If you add in the eight events of '16-'17 along with the Canada Cup, Continental Cup and a few big spiels (if those events can still squeeze in dates), it is almost a full schedule.