Friday, July 20, 2012

CFL on NBC Sports Network

It was announced today that the CFL has found a home on U.S. for some regular season games as well as all the play-offs including the Grey Cup.

Obviously, it is hard to get excited here in Winnipeg when the Blue Bombers are off to a poor start. However, it is good to have additional media coverage of our game in the U.S. market. Why? Well, we forget that we do have an audience down there of fans following the game for a variety of reasons. Plenty of Canadians are down in the U.S. for business and short and long term holidays. Now many will be able to enjoy the game.

The contract for 9 regular season games, East and West finals and the Grey Cup go to the newly dubbed NBC Sports Channel...formerly known as Versus...formerly known as Outdoor Life Network.

Comcast used to be the owner of OLN and it was a broadcaster of hunting and fishing shows. Later, the Tour de France gave the network huge appeal with massive coverage and a star...Lance Armstrong. For a time, the network was jokingly called the "Only Lance Network."

It proved to not be a joke when Armstrong was not racing. Ratings went down. OLN was presented with a unique opportunity to move away from cycling when the contract for NHL games came up. Comcast already owned the Philadelphia Flyers. It seemed a good way to build something beyond the sports that they already covered.

OLN became Versus the second year of the NHL contract in 2006. Due the poorer coverage of Versus over ESPN, ratings dropped. However, more money was offered as was the chance to build an audience.

Versus cast about for other sports that it could build an audience around like ultimate fighting, lacrosse and auto racing. College football was there as well. They teamed up with NBC Sports to do Olympic coverage and world events. Even Grey Cup games were broadcast on the network.

Everything changed in 2011 when Comcast bought a majority stake in NBC Universal. It was then that all disparate sports units of Comcast and NBC Sports were brought together. Hockey has played a big part and the cable network and the main network have shown hockey and watched the ratings climb. The Olympics will be a major boost too.

But the Olympics only last so long and the hockey loving owner of NBC now has to think about what to show in the late summer after Olympics and before hockey and college football. The answer is Canadian Football.

Now, this doesn't foreshadow the CFL's return to the U.S. with teams down there. But it could be another revenue stream for the league. We need to get a team back in Ottawa and possibly in Quebec City and Halifax and the way to do is a healthy bottom line and good audiences.

Toronto is still convinced that the less love it shows the CFL, the better chance they have in getting an NFL team. They are wrong.

If the NFL can say no to Los Angeles for an insufficient stadium, lack of a committed ownership group and undetermined fan base, you can can be sure they are looking at Canada'a largest city and wondering what compelling reason they would go there.

The CFL, not withstanding the Bombers icky play, has been on a bit of an upswing in ratings, with exciting games, new facilities and the like. It is a good thing to get more TV coverage.

Welcome to our U.S. audience.


Riverman said...

"Toronto is still convinced that the less love it shows the CFL, the better chance they have in getting an NFL team. They are wrong."

Love it, so well put!

One Man Committee said...

US TV exposure is a good thing given that the US is the biggest supplier of football talent to the CFL. I doubt that this deal with NBCSN is going to put a lot of green into the league's pockets, but in this case it's the exposure that really matters.

Unfortunately, this deal won't do much for Bomber fans travelling in the US since none of Winnipeg's regular season games will be televised down there. Maybe next season!

John Dobbin said...

River: I think to badly hurt from losing their NFL team and then embracing and loving and supporting their CFL. Huge numbers of people, good product on the field, good management and ownership. You think the NFL didn't notice? Of course they did.

OMC: Not sure about the revenue from showing the games. It is something though. It is true though that exposure will not hurt the league one bit.

As for the Blue Bombers, I think they cover games next year in the stadium. And maybe the team will be a weee bit better as well.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth the CFL has all it's games streamed online in the US on for free. I've lived in Maryland for the last 5 years and it's how I've been able to watch the Bombers.

I was surprised by the NBC deal because ESPN is a Disney owned, ABC affiliated company and ESPN holds a percentage of TSN. The TSN feed is what is shown online on ESPN3. I figured if anyone would televise games it would be ESPN on TSN2.

John Dobbin said...

Anon: Yes, I have wondered why ESPN had not grabbed more CFL for actual TV broadcasts

Streaming broadcasts are better than nothing but TV broadcasts are still where it is at for sports. I suspect ESPN had no spot for CFL except online. This is why NBC Sports grabbed what they did.

Jizzer said...

No offense to Canadians, but the CFL is considered a minor league in the U.S. It won't draw any ratings. If Canadians watch the NHL, would you rather watch a minor team play Hockey instead of a NHL team? Of course not.