EURO 2012, Tour de France Not Enough? How About MLS?

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.


8 thoughts on “EURO 2012, Tour de France Not Enough? How About MLS?

  1. Hi Josh,

    I’m glad to hear that TSN is buying the TV rights to MLS, they better put them on TSN and not TSN 2. I know this is a remote possibility, but can CBC work something out with TSN. Maybe they can spit games. When TSN has a TFC game nationally then CBC can air the Vancouver game. That would be a good compromise. Maybe Rogers Sportsnet and The Score can enter as well. We just need more MLS games on TV in Canada.

    I also hope Rogers and Bell can buy the MLS Direct kick package that Direct TV and Dish Network have.

    What do you think should happen and would do you think will happen?

    Thanks and keep up the great work

    • There is no chance that TSN will split games with another network. They wouldn’t have bought rights to a Game of the Week if they didn’t want one game every week. Some games will air on TSN2, especially during the early season because of NHL playoffs.

      It looks like MLS is only allowing one national TV game per week, just like what they allow in the US. Otherwise, viewers Ontario-east will get every Toronto FC game (I’m guessing on GolTV and/or Sportsnet Ontario/East) and viewers Manitoba-west will get every Whitecaps game (I’m guessing on Sportsnet West/Pacific). The reason they do this is to protect advertisers and local broadcast rights, plus it allows the teams to make money off selling their own rights. It will work similar to how NHL works.

      I think MLS Direct Kicks would be offered if they thought people watched MLS. The problem is very few people watch TFC games on CBC and very, very few would pay extra money to watch games between American teams.

  2. I have the Sportsnet Package of Ontario, East, West and Pacific. Can I watch Whitecaps games in Toronto and can people in Vancouver watch TFC games.

    I just want all TFC and Whitecaps games to be available nationally to anyone who wants to watch.

    They have the NCAA package, does anyone watch that?

    For me this deal seems to be backwards, does not really help. Wish TSN and CBC could work something out.

    • No. Just like you can’t watch Canucks games on Sportsnet Pacific, you wouldn’t be able to watch Whitecaps games. This is common practice in the States where, for example, people in Columbus can’t watch Rapids games.

      I think there are probably a few more NCAA fans in Canada than fans of US MLS teams. While there are a fair number of TFC, Whitecaps and Impact fans here, there aren’t many fans of the US teams.

      This deal does help. The average Canadian sports fan watches SportsCentre on TSN most nights (it is the highest rated sports highlights program). As of now TSN hardly shows MLS highlights because they have no reason to promote the league. Now that they will be showing TFC and Whitecaps games, they will show more highlights and the coverage will get promotion during TSN’s NHL and CFL coverage. When coverage was on CBC it rarely got promoted during other programming.

      • Who cares about highlights.
        I want to see the game!!!!!

        CBC promoted MLS on other programs.
        I remember watching hockey games and they constantly promoted TFC games.
        Also, NHL and CFL are on TSN, MLS will likely be on TSN2. I don’t see how that expands the game to more people.

        • Lots of people who don’t watch soccer watch SportsCentre. They may watch games because they saw the highlights. ESPN has really grown the game in the US, and I think TSN can do the same here.

  3. Hi Josh,

    Do know if TSN will have any TFC or Vancouver highlight shows or any type of MLS programs?

    So you think local sportsnet channels will air TFC and Vancouver. Not chance we will see other games not on TSN on The Score or even Gol TV.

    This will be my last question: When will they make an official announcement. Could it be when MLS announces their schedule, hopefully this week.

    Thanks for answering my questions

    • Not sure about highlight shows. I’d doubt it, but wait until closer to the season for more information. I’ve posted everything I know. They haven’t even officially announced the deal yet, expect that tomorrow. GolTV will probably want to keep airing all non-game Toronto FC programming.

      I think GolTV will split Toronto FC games with Sportsnet Ontario. I could see Shaw TV picking up some of the Whitecaps games if Sportsnet Pacific can’t air all of them. I don’t think The Score would be interested in regional rights because they don’t have the ability to split their feed like TSN and Sportsnet do.

      No problem about answering the questions. I think that you are right that it will be officially announced this week, maybe tomorrow. I’ll have more details then.

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