New CFL/TSN Contract is Fair for Both Sides

So I finally got around to writing a bit about the new CFL on TSN television contract. I didn’t want to focus too much on the money spent because I figured many were wondering about how it would affect CFL television coverage in Canada. I thought the mainstream media did a reasonable job of covering the positive effects it will have on the well-being of the league. That was until I read Toronto Sports Media’s column on the new deal. TSM thinks that there is “NO way” TSN can make money off a deal where they are paying between 350, 000 and 400, 000 per game. He doesn’t really give any reasons why he thinks this, other than he doesn’t like the CFL. Now I have no idea how much revenue TSN makes off a given CFL game and considering his lack of evidence, I doubt he does either.

Most mainstream media sources cite the new CFL on TSN deal as being worth between $30 (The Star) and $40 million per year (Vancouver Sun). Either way that’s significantly more than the $15 million per season the CFL has received since going exclusive with TSN in 2008. The value of the league has more than doubled in five years. And that’s despite the fact that TSN signed the deal at the last-minute of their exclusive negotiating window. Not that any other networks were going to challenge TSN. Sportsnet is happy with the Blue Jays during the summer. CBC is facing budget cuts and will focus on keeping Hockey Night in Canada. Shaw shelved their proposed sports channel because they knew they couldn’t compete with Bell and Rogers.

Like I said, I have no idea how much revenue TSN gets from any individual CFL broadcast. So the only real comparison on how good the CFL’s new deal is another sports broadcast on TSN. The NHL gets around $33 million a season (or $200 million over six seasons) from TSN for 70 regular season TSN-produced broadcasts featuring Canadian teams and some playoff games. Depending on how many Canadian teams make the playoffs, some seasons TSN gets to show a Canadian team in the first round. Others they don’t. The past couple seasons have shown that it isn’t a guarantee.

TSN averaged 714, 000 viewers for NHL regular season games in 2009-10, with numbers in 2010-11 slightly higher. I don’t think TSN released season averages for last season. CFL on TSN regular season ratings have leveled off, averaging 637, 000 and 674, 000 in 2011 and 2012 respectively. This after the shockingly high average of 807, 000 in 2010. Those ratings aren’t that far below what TSN gets for the NHL. CFL is the second most consistent performer on Canadian TV, after NHL.

TSN pays around $475, 000 per regular season NHL game. Under the new contract, which sees the CFL regular season schedule increase from 72 to 81 regular season games when Ottawa joins the league next season. Using the median of the dollar values for the new CFL contract reported by the media, $35 million, TSN will pay just over $430, 000 per regular season game. Of course it is worth remembering TSN is paying for playoffs too, and TSN produces more NHL playoff games than the CFL has. TSN signed the NHL contract five years ago. NHL ratings have also jumped for TSN in that time. The NHL will certainly get more money for its next cable contract than it does now.

So, based on that, I think TSN is paying market value for CFL broadcasts. I think Toronto Sports Media is blinded by his dislike of the league, which isn’t unusual. A lot of people seem to deny how well Canadian football does for TSN for whatever reason. Even if TSN could pay less for the league, the two businesses have a great partnership. I don’t think either party wanted to rip-off the other, and I certainly don’t think TSN is “desperate for content” or that the CFL “stole 30 million dollars” (so are CFL rights worth nothing in that case?).

And even if TSN did pay more than the broadcasts are worth, surely the deal can also be considered as an investment for when TSN likely signs a new contract with the CFL in five more years. The CFL isn’t like the Olympics, or even the NHL. Putting money into the league makes a real difference. Every team should make money now. The new Ottawa franchise is entering a much more stable league than the Renegades did twelve years before. New stadiums are coming, the salary cap might go up, the CFL can put more into marketing and getting fans to the gate (personally I gained a greater appreciation after I saw a game live). That should translate into more fan interest, higher ratings and more adverting revenue for TSN over the next five seasons.

36 thoughts on “New CFL/TSN Contract is Fair for Both Sides

  1. TSM post about the CFL sounds more like the banter you hear on sports radio – lots of opinion but little facts. It is also called the Toronto Sports Media blog which means they’re usually clueless about the business of the CFL.

  2. Think one issue is there is the CFL and then there is the “CFL in Toronto”. Like polar opposites sometimes. Paul Beeston a few days ago mentioned the plan for the Skydome to be switched over to grass. Which would mean the Argos have to move out. Any other CFL market this would be big news, but it just went by without much notice.

    I’ve never been to a CFL game but my sister and her boyfriend went to an Argos game in Toronto. They’ve been to Jays, Raptors, NHL games. They never went to another Argos game since they said it was a horrible experience. She even sent me a text while the game was happening that she was bored. You don’t want to hear a younger sports fan use the word “bored”. Crowd quiet, stadium layout for CFL was bad, etc. Don’t know how to change that, but with a countdown on them getting kicked out of Skydome someone better come up with something.

    • Yeah the SkyDome is certainly different than anywhere else. Looks like a horrible place to watch a football game. I went in Moncton where the stadium is small and despite the running track you feel fairly close to the field.

    • The CFL remains hugely popular in western Canada, but for the most part has gradually fallen off the map in Toronto over about the last 35 years. Very few people in Toronto under the age of 40 have ever payed attention to the CFL and they have trouble believing anyone else does. It was apparent even as far back as 1992 when I went to an Argos-Calgary game at SkyDome with a co-worker originally from Alberta. Other than a big fight on the sideline that led to Raghib Ismail making a Speakers Corner apology, the only thing I remember is that we were sitting in the back row of a section in the 200 level, and we noticed the backs of the heads of every other person sitting in that half-filled section were gray-haired or bald.

      • Have you noticed how many young men shave their heads bald?

        Anyway, it is finally nice to see an informed opinion on the CFL-TSN deal. Hopefully this is the start of better and better things for the league. The stability, better TV numbers and the obvious lack of off-field issues have certainly improved the perception of the 3 down game. But with folks like TSM leading the anti-CFL charge in the GTA there is still a lot of work to do in the Golden Horsehoe.
        I can understand why some people do not watch CFL football, it is the same reason why I don’t watch NBA basketball, it holds no interest for me. What I don’t understand is the loathing many anti-CFL Canadians hold against the league. It is like it is a personal affront to them that this league exists and that their life would be so much better if 3 down football disappeared alltogether. If they truely love to watch football then they should be happy that there is CFL, NFL, NCAA and CIS out there to watch. I know that I do.

        • I have absolutely no problem with people not watching CFL. I prefer NCAA and NFL myself, but I watch the odd CFL game too and I love the Grey Cup. It’s absolutely stupid to look at it non-factually like so many in the Toronto media do though.

        • Good post. Always wondered about the self-hate that mostly Toronto area people have about the CFL. Probably more telling about themselves than the merits of the CFL.

          The other segment that always puzzled me is the NFL fan who doesn’t really watch any other football and puts other football like the CFL down. And they tend to put down most other sports events especially soccer it threatens their worldview that the NFL is the center of everyone’s sports universe.

        • Sure there are some of those people but what I find just as common these days is the outright hostility that CFL-only fans show to people who don’t want to watch the sport.
          It’s sickening everytime I read some person going off about how Torontonians are not real Canadians or American wannabes all because we’re a much bigger city and the CFL has a harder time competing for the entertainment dollars against four other sports teams. Like our country should be defined by Americans (the ironic part in this) playing 3 downs instead of 4.

          • Fair enough comment. Maybe its because the CFL was teetering on the blink of oblivion that many fans felt that Toronto, the area that is supposed to be the bastion of Canada, was the first to turn its back on it. Maybe a little spurned lover syndrome at work? I used to be one of those types, now I just shake my head at the folks who go out of their way to put down the CFL.

    • The grass in the dome story isn’t new. It’s been reported on all off-season so Beeston repeating what’s already known on the Fan isn’t really a story.

      If anything, Rogers has of late been giving the sense that it’ll only happen when the Argos want it to. It’s sort of like the parents who have big plans to renovate their basement. Only they have to wait until their 30-year old son decides to move into a place of his own.

  3. I think the ratings on TSN will really go down this season with all the hype around the Toronto Blue Jays. Espically if the Jays do well I think Sportsnet will stealing viewers from CFL.

    • I think they are two different fanbases for the most part. Example last year Jays and CFL ratings both increased (Jays by a higher % than CFL). Maybe it will affect Argos and Ti-Cats ratings, but I can’t see it making a big difference out west or in Quebec.

    • The CFL on TSN represents the whole country. The Jays are Toronto’s team with other canadian cities closer to other MLB teams. So nothing should change the Argos will pull a second class franchise in Toronto to the blue Jays so nothing will change except the Argos did win the grey cup. If the Jays should bomb with the hi priced free agents you may see something occur that we never thought would ever happen

      • As much as it bothers some, the Toronto Blue Jays truly are Canada’s team. The fact that the Mariners and other American teams are closer to some major Canadian cities has less of an impact than you think. Canada isn’t Southern New Jersey where Philadelphia teams get cheered over Northern New Jersey teams. There are two reasons for this, territorial broadcast rights and good old Canadian nationalism.

        • May be somewhat true, but there are lots of Mariners fans in BC and Red Sox fans in the Maritimes. And Expos fans in Quebec who are left with no team. I don’t think Canadian nationalism means much when the team is over a thousand kilometres away and only Canadian because it plays in a Canadian city. Certainly doesn’t affect me (a Red Sox fan in New Brunswick) and I’m quite patriotic. It’s quite easy to identify with the New England states here, and I’m sure the same is true of BC/Washington.

          As far as territorial rights, I’m sure it plays a role, but Sportsnet has shown some 50 Mariners and Red Sox games for years. I think I counted about half of the Red Sox games on Canadian TV this season (Sportsnet/Fox/TSN2). When you factor in that baseball is a popular radio sport as well. Stations from New England that air Red Sox games are quite easily picked up at night. Jays games are on the 3 Rogers-owned stations in the Maritimes.

          • I am well aware of the fact that there are a number of Mariners fans in BC. However, living in the Greater Vancouver area I can tell you there is a significant difference between MLB fans in Vancouver and MLB fans in Bellingham, Washington. In Bellingham the overwhelming majority of baseball fans root for the Mariners, while in Vancouver fan support is split with the Blue Jays.

            Since my University gives me access to “Pro Quest” I did some digging and found a non scientific survey of baseball fans in Vancouver from the December 29 1996 edition of The Province. The question was “What is your favourite baseball team”? The results were Blue Jays: 118 Votes, Mariners: 111 Votes, Expos: 87 Votes.

            Take the survey in Cherry Hill, NJ asking whether hockey fans root for the Flyers or Devils and the Devils will get crushed. Simply put, U.S. State borders have a much less significant impact on fan allegiance than the Canada-US border does.

  4. thanks for posting about this. it’s great to have some analysis of the deal. i haven’t watched a minute of CFL in years, so i have no horse in this race.

    I suspect TSM’s bizarre post can be explained in part by a dislike of the CFL but more likely by someone at Rogers feeding him bad info. It’s happened before.

    • I saw on Twitter that he didn’t even know how many games were broadcast, after he wrote the article. He can’t have put much research into it. The cost per game somebody gave him was more or less correct (maybe even a bit low), but anybody could calculate that given the price per year and number of games broadcast.

  5. The CFL is big outside the GTA. It’s little surprise that someone from Toronto would look down his nose at the CFL. Besides, TO is gunning for its own NFL team. If it’s true that Rogers Centre is changing to grass and the Argos have to move from there, where would they play? Varsity Stadium is way to small. Maybe Lamport Stadium?

    • Even though the Argos held practices there at one point (1990s?), Lamport Stadium has approximately 9000 bench seats and a field surface well under the 150 yards (plus more for run off room) in length needed for the CFL. And there’s no way they’ re going to get the city to extend the field into the south parking lot.

    • Certainly no stadium that exists as it is now. My guess is with the new money the Argos and CFL get from this new deal, they may be able to work out a deal with UT to renovate Varsity Stadium and make it 20, 000 seats or so. There was talk of doing this about 10 years ago. I’m not sure of the logistics involved.

      • Varsity was already renovated around that time so UT wouldn’t rip it apart again. The Argos were intially interested in moving there but couldn’t get the details to work so they backed out. Then they looked at BMO Field and one at York but couldn’t get those done either.

      • In order to get an appropriately sized stadium that can accommodate the CFL, it would have to be a completely new stadium or an extensive rebuilding of a smaller one that would likely cost as much as a new one. After the previous Argo owners p.o.’d everyone in 2005 by walking away from an agreement to have a new stadium built for only $20 million of their own money (with government paying the rest),

        I really doubt they’re going to find a deal that good now, unless they would be content with setting up a bunch of bleachers and port-a-johns around some vacant land out in the middle of nowhere. If the possible GTA casino complex gets built somewhere outside of downtown Toronto, maybe the Argos could try to weasel their way into getting a new stadium built as part of it without having to pay for all of it themselves?

        • I thought BMO was their best option and they should have got in on that when it was renovated last. It’s a nice stadium in a great location (TFC games look great on TV on a summer evening). It’s only used for some 20 TFC games a year, and maybe 5 national team games. They wouldn’t run into scheduling conflicts like they always do at the Dome.

          • BMO would have been the nice option. But now, they would need a system to move one football grass field for another type of football grass/turf field. TFC supporters have shown to be up in arms just even if there is hint that Cdn football will be played on their grass field.

            The field is much more sacred for sport of footy. There is already an uproar that the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada will be a plastic world cup as all matches will be played on turf.

      • The next likely stadium that would be best to expand for the home of the Argos will be the multi purpose stadium that will be built on York Campus for Track and Field for the Pan Am Games and the new home field for York university athletic teams Football/Soccer ect. Built with 5,000 permanent seats and with govt money will be expanded to 12.5K. Would be much more possible to expand to a CFL sized venue with CFL amenities easier than Varsity or BMO. The venue at York will also be surrounded by first class everything training, locker room etc,
        They would be in a similar situation as Montreal and the current situation they are in with RC in that they would use the venue for games only and still need a seperate full time practice facility. However the scheduling will be much better for the CFL with York home football and soccer games the only things that will need to be worked around.
        As long as Rogers is still available they will not be going anywhere because of the cost that would be needed to adjust the York venue or build there own.
        RC may not have the greatest football set up but does have all first class amenities; suites, Locker room, concession, washroom, etc. It will just have to be the worst place to watch football in the CFL

  6. MLSE and Rogers control the Toronto media so the Argos or the CFL will never be a priority in the media. both Rogers and MLSE, who are now formed a partnership, could have always bought the Argos put at the time the CFL looked dead in the water. The MLSE went with TFC and the MLS and Rogers got involved with the Bills and the NFL at this same time.
    Move the clock up 5 or 6 years and Toronto FC and the MLS are still OK and the Rogers, Bills/NFL partnership has gone terrible for them yet still renewed the Bills series this time with a much different philosophy with it being a one game a year series and not as a market tester for the move of the Bills to Toronto. Seats will be of a more reasonable costs and Rogers will get some great publicity from the billion dollar NFL empire with the Rogers name being on the schedule and a week where a game will be on one of the major NFL networks.
    In the mean time the CFL and TSN have turned the CFL from something that looked for sure to be coming to and end after 60 or so years has made a complete 180. For Rogers really no need to by the Argos as they were getting free advertising on a rival network TSN every time a game is shown “Live from Rogers Centre in Toronto.”
    If Rogers/MLSE can swallow some pride owning the Argos now may not be a bad investment. As they control the media and four other major league sports they would be the only ones to make the CFL popular in the GTA one at least the level that TFC, Raptors, and the Marlies are own. Promting the Argos with those three teams as well as the the super popular leafs and the hopefully popular again Jays.
    The current lease for the Argos at Rogers centre is low in $$$ but takes a lions share in concessions and parking. If they owned the Argos they would not need a lease and would get all of the Concessions, parking, Ticket revenue, TV money from an opposing Network as well as having the Argos back on a Rogers owned radio Network as well as promoting them on sports net for greater ticket sales as well as Mechandise sales included with the MLS, NBA, NHL, MLB, and AHL franchises during all of these events and on sportsnet.
    PRIDE getting in the way of business now for Rogers

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