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When Canadian football hits the tube, can the Fourth of July be far behind?


Bad news for housewives on television this summer. Tomorrow Syndication, an independent production company, has announced it will be hitting the airwaves starting June 28 with a weekly prime-time professional football series. Live, ladies. Just the thing to brighten up those Wednesday nights when the summer cottage is too quiet and you're dying for a night in town.

The football in question will be of the Canadian variety—wider field, fewer downs, restrictions on downfield blocking—and it will be the first U.S. television invasion of the Canadian game since ABC gave up the Grey Cup championships on Wide World of Sports in 1965. Tomorrow Syndication hopes its prime-time package, scheduled to run through Nov. 8, will lure summertime viewers turned off by TVs parade of reruns, and that by September, when the tube conies back to life—or live—the hook will be in. It just may be.

Can the Canadian game combat the massive penetration of NFL telecasts in recent years? Canadian Football League Commissioner Jack Gaudaur believes it can. "I think we have a superior spectator sport." he says. "We hear the NFL fears the playing field is 'shrinking' as athletes become faster and bigger. We already have the larger field."

Tomorrow Syndication plans 20 consecutive Wednesday-night shows, beginning with an All-Star telecast on opening night. (Preceding this on June 21 will be a special explaining the Canadian game.) The first 14 telecasts will be live. The final six will be tape replays of games played the previous weekends. Handling play-by-play and commentary will be two illustrious old NFL hands, Jerry Kramer and Alex Karras.

So far the CFL series has not started any stampedes along Madison Avenue, despite bargain prices. One-minute spots are going for $15,000 each, about one-fifth of what ABC-TV gets for its Monday-night NFL spots. Station signups have moved ahead smartly, however, with about 70% of the nation covered. To make ends meet, unfortunately, Syndication people say they must have 24 spots per game, as compared to 18 for NFL contests. Only 10 of these spots will be for national advertisers—the rest going to local sponsors.

Another concern is what local stations will do—especially the numerous ABC outlets signed up—when the new fall entertainment lineup arrives. Chances are the CFL package will be bumped out of prime time, meaning a lower audience, lower fees and a loss of momentum for the crucial weeks when the CFL game will be competing for the football fan's attention with the NFL weekend and Monday telecasts.