TORONTO (Reuters) - Like an aggressive team snapping up a rival's top player, Canada's CTV television network has acquired rights to the "Hockey Night" jingle that has traditionally opened hockey broadcasts on the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
The move, announced by CTV on Monday, is a major blow for public broadcaster CBC, where the theme has acquired iconic status as the opening for Saturday "Hockey Night in Canada" broadcasts of National Hockey League games since 1968.
Reports last week that CBC was walking away from negotiations to renew its rights to the theme sparked a harsh reaction from fans who have grown up with the tune.
CTV said it would use the theme for hockey broadcasts on TSN and RDS, its English- and French-language sports networks.
"In addition, CTV will utilize the song as part of its hockey coverage during the upcoming Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games," Rick Brace, CTV's president of sports, said in a statement, calling the tune "a cherished piece of Canadiana."
Last week, Copyright Music & Visuals, which controls use of the song, said CBC had advised it was not prepared to enter into a new license agreement.
The head of CBC's sports programming defended the network's handling of the situation, saying there were limits to what the public broadcaster could pay for the theme -- suggesting the composer was asking for at least C$2.5 million.
"I don't think the taxpayers would have liked that," Scott Moore told an interviewer from the network, suggesting the deal had also fallen victim to a history of animosity between CBC and the composer's agent.
The old agreement, which cost the CBC about C$500 ($490) for each game broadcast, expired following the final game of the Stanley Cup playoffs last week.
Financial details of the agreement with CTV were not disclosed.
CTV said last week it had signed a six-year broadcast and digital rights deal with the NHL, and the network has Canadian broadcast rights to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Reporting by Cameron French; editing by Rob Wilson