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World Cup TV rights, viewership still at issue Early this week there was still some hope the Dash for Cash special slalom race might still be held on Whistler Mountain Dec. 2, but race organizers weren’t optimistic. "Peter Andrews (Canada’s FIS delegate) thought Halva was interested in doing the event and may be a source of revenue," says Bill McNeney, chief of race. "But I think this one is slipping through our fingers." On Wednesday Don McQuaid of the Masters Group agreed. "It’s not on," he says. A dispute between Halva, an Italian company which has bought up international broadcast rights to most of the World Cup races, APF, an umbrella group representing the sponsors of many of the World Cup races, and the European Broadcast Union, which represents the primary TV networks in most of the European countries, has made television coverage of World Cup races uncertain. The races will be shown, it’s a matter of which networks want to buy the rights from Halva. The APF group has signed contracts with race organizing committees agreeing to provide sponsorship money based on the number of TV viewers each broadcast reaches. The EBU provides the largest number of viewers but they are balking at the price Halva wants for the TV rights. If the EBU doesn’t buy the rights the races may be shown on secondary networks with smaller audiences. In that case the races are worth less to the APF group who will reduce the amount of money they are willing to put up for sponsorship. The APF group was willing to sponsor Whistler’s Dash for Cash event but how much they would put up hinged on the TV distribution. Alpine Canada has sold the broadcast rights to Canadian races to Halva. Former Alpine Canada president Bill Webster is now representing Halva in Canada through his own company, Websport. The Vancouver Ski Foundation, which was behind the Dash for Cash invitational race, was hoping to make a $50,000 profit on the event, to make up for some of the shortfall on previous World Cup events at Whistler. Alpine Canada’s Nick Wilson believes the Whistler race may have been overvalued by the organizers and the APF group. "One thing against the Dash for Cash was the hard costs and the prize money," Wilson says. "It’s not going to get the TV ratings of a World Cup event." McNeney thinks the matter was not so much one of being over priced, but of there being no agreement in place on where the race would be shown on TV. It’s a problem for the whole World Cup circuit and, as McNeney says, "In terms of a priority list we’re on about page five." The TV dispute has played a part in CBC’s coverage of World Cup races this winter. The CBC will broadcast a total of 15 hours of World Cup racing this winter and most of it will be on Sunday afternoons, rather than Saturdays. The CBC has had to pay higher fees to Halva for broadcast rights of World Cup races this winter.

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