EDIT: Okay, I think this is as good as done. Along with The Globe & Mail, Sports Buisiness Daily and various other sources are reporting it as well. Sports Business Daily is about as reliable as they come.
Yep, that’s right, on the same day that TSN picked up Canadian rights for a number of UEFA soccer tournaments, including EURO 2012 and EURO 2016, and the Tour de France, it appears that “Canada’s Sports Leader” is living up to it’s billing by acquiring Canadian rights to MLS that were previously held by CBC and Rogers Sportsnet. This will include a national game of the week featuring either Toronto FC or the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps FC and the MLS Playoffs. Regional rights for the two Canadian teams are still up for grabs; however, I don’t think any of those games will able to be aired nationally. I expect Sportsnet and GolTV to put in strong efforts for regional rights.
This is just the latest major soccer acquisition for TSN. As I mentioned earlier today they confirmed that they will carry EURO 2012 and EURO 2016 in Canada. Last summer they also picked up Canadian rights to the Barclays Premier League and UEFA Champions League. Considering that ESPN2 shows a national MLS game of the week in the United States as well, it is reasonable to think that this game will air on TSN2 in Canada under the new broadcast deal. Fox Soccer Channel shows a game of the week too, usually on Saturday nights. This game could theoretically end up on TSN2 as well, or they could sub-license it to Fox Sports World Canada. Of course it is quite possible that it won’t air on Canadian TV at all too.
From what I have heard, CBC wasn’t really interested in renewing their MLS rights anyway. The league struggled to pull in over 200, 000 viewers on most Saturday afternoons. Some games couldn’t even hit the 100, 000 mark. This means that it is more economical for CBC to air amateur sports for a fraction of the cost, and get close to the same number of viewers most weeks. On the other hand, MLS will benefit from the promotion that TSN can give the sport. Generally if a sport isn’t aired on TSN, they barely mention it or show highlights on SportsCentre; however, if a sport does air its games on TSN or TSN2, it will get better coverage on SportsCentre. Proof of this comes from the Olympics (amateur sports got better coverage), UEFA Champions League (barely got a mention the year it wasn’t on TSN) and Premier League.
This should be a great deal for Canadian soccer fans. While CBC and Sportsnet did a great job at covering MLS, TSN gives it the extra promotion it needs in Canada. Having a national Game of the Week is a good idea as well. Games seemed all over the place for the most part on CBC and Sportsnet. It will be interesting to see how the local rights for Vancouver and Toronto are sold though. Personally I’m hoping to be able to see all Whitecaps games here in the east, but I’m not betting on it.
The most interesting thing about the possibility of the MLS on TSN would be the commentators. I think TSN will hire Nigel Reed away from CBC to serve as their play-by-play, EURO 2012 host and UEFA Champions League host. I also think they may hire Jason De Vos to be an analyst for all three properties.
Stewart Johnson, President of TSN. said they can’t confirm an MLS deal now. Basically that means it is close to a done deal, but isn’t completely done yet. Johnson also had a busy day with all the programming deals TSN announced today.