Argos ownership change renews Sportsnet’s interest in the CFL

Rightly or wrongly, there’s been a certain perception when it comes to Rogers and the CFL. If you’re reading this, then odds are you probably don’t think too highly of Rogers coverage of the league.

As we all know, Canada’s sports television landscape is dominated by two major corporations. One, Bell, obviously has a very good working relationship with the CFL based on the money they invest in the league every year through the TV rights deal with TSN. There are certainly areas where TSN coverage can improve, but that’s a story for another day. The other company, Rogers, has long been considered by some CFL fans a “hater” of the league.

Whether you like Sportsnet or not, there’s no question they cover the league very differently than their competitors at Bell.  That’s understandable when you consider both networks will always favour whatever sports they happen to own the broadcast rights to. That’s how the business works.

But over the last few months, there’s been an interesting shift when it comes to the CFL and Rogers and it involves the Argos. This winter, the team was officially added to the MLSE umbrella. For the last two seasons, the Argos were owned by two of the three entities that own MLSE, Bell and Larry Tanenbaum. Rogers was a holdout but now that’s changed.

This is good news for the league because Rogers now has skin (even if it’s just 33.3% of one team) in the game. The Argos, and by extension, the CFL’s success now matters to the company.

How Sportsnet covers the CFL appears to be changing already.

Commissioner Randy Ambrosie appeared on Tim and Sid on Thursday of CFL Week. Usually, that wouldn’t be all that notable. Tim Micallef is a well-known supporter of Canadian football at every level and the show has been known to discuss the CFL from time-to-time, most notably with 3DownNation’s Justin Dunk.

However, this appearance was different. Some questions that a non-broadcast rights holder could ask, were asked (as they should), but overall, it came across very much like a network that had an interest in the league. It’s a little thing, but both Tim and Sid openly called the week “Marks” CFL Week when they really didn’t have to. As far as we know, they aren’t being paid to mention the week’s title sponsor.

To the league’s credit, they seem to be reaching out to their broadcast rights competitor a little more too. Ambrosie even had a Blue Bombers jersey made with “Tim N Sid” on the back.

With a broadcast deal that could expire in 2021, it is in the league’s best interest to try and get Sportsnet on board as a bidding war is always preferable (having games on both networks would be better for the league, but that’s also another story). Repairing what’s been an odd relationship won’t happen overnight, but it’s not impossible.

None of this is to say that Sportsnet is suddenly going to cover the CFL around the clock but it’s a step in the right direction and it’s all thanks to the Argos.

Joel Gasson

Joel Gasson

Joel Gasson is a Regina-based sports writer, broadcaster and football fanatic.
Joel Gasson
Joel Gasson
About Joel Gasson (187 Articles)
Joel Gasson is a Regina-based sports writer, broadcaster and football fanatic.

42 Comments on Argos ownership change renews Sportsnet’s interest in the CFL

  1. Harrison // March 23, 2018 at 1:42 pm //

    Hopefully the CFL will have a digital OTT subscription option so you don’t have to subscribe to cable to watch the CFL after the next broadcast contracts are handed out.

    • No that’s not going to happen. The reason why TSN and Sportsnet were set up was to put sports on a separate channel. The only reason why the NFL is on CTV is that viewers would watch the US broadcast OTT if it wasn’t on CTV.
      Without the CFL there wouldn’t be much for TSN

  2. It is not just the CFL that Sportsnet ‘hates’; they have scr*ewed over OUA Football as well. They own the rights to the OUA games but they refuse to show any of the regular season games.

    If you are interested in growing Canadian Football, as a whole, you need to be able to watch university level games on TV on a regular basis, ; this breads interest following the young Canadian players. CHCH did a better a job in the 90’s with their OUAA game of the week on Saturdays then Sportsnet is doing nearly 30 years later.

    If Sportsnet wants a chance at covering CFL they need to show they can cover football for more than just one game (Vanier Cup) per year.

    • But TSN doesn’t cover the CIS either.
      The reality is that no one watches the CIS. It’s the same for attendance at CIS football games, very few people attend games.
      TSN, Sportsnet, CHCH none can get advertisers for CIS football

      • TSN does not own the rights to CIS Football, they cannot cover it, and since there are no highlights from Sportsnet that TSN could even buy, it would be hard for them to show a weekly highlight package.

  3. Sportsnet hates the CFL , lipstick doesn’t dress up a pig !!

  4. Barry McCawkiner // March 23, 2018 at 2:16 pm //

    Having 2 providers is not a bad thing… I miss the CBC days with Don Wittman, Chris Cuthbert and Brian Williams. Still waiting for TSN to change that nasty intro music…

  5. dangerdan21 // March 23, 2018 at 2:23 pm //

    I don’t why the CFL dose not go to PPV
    something like NFL Sunday Ticket

    • Lennywasout // March 23, 2018 at 3:36 pm //

      Nobody would pay. The CFL is not the NFL. Plus I don’t know many who would actually pay for NFL Sunday ticket unless the are wealthy or have no life to be able sit and watch all those games.

    • I prefer they switch over to, or simulcast with, mother Corp CTV. That would increase ratings dramatically.

    • How can you do that in a 9 team league? Who would buy it?

    • CFL would fold if it went to PPV. I would pay for Rider games, playoffs and Grey Cup, that would be it.

  6. TSN has been a saviour for the league, but it is probably time to get more networks involved, simply so they have an interest in covering the score and stories. The CFL is the only league that puts all its eggs in one basket, even though it has been a warm and cozy basket.

    • yep B you are spot on, TSN has kept the league alive -THEN has done very well by covering everything and prioritising CFL on sportdesk

    • With more people every year cutting the cord, there won’t be that many viewers left in 2022.
      Millenials watch programs on tablets and IPhone not on TV. There won’t be a lot of money for a new CFL TV contract

  7. I was noticing a change in the Rogers coverage of the CFL on the Fan590. They follow their corporate masters as well, and have denegrated the CFL time and again. The 2016 Friday-before-the-Grey Cup episode of Prime Time Sports was terrible, with all four panelists openly scoffing at the game and the CFL in general, basically saying, “why is anyone going to even watch this, and why are we even talking about this”.

    The show they did after this past Grey Cup (and after the sale was announced) was a 180° turn. “What a game!” “I can’t believe anyone didn’t watch this!” “Is it June yet?!?” It’s little things like this that end up shaping public opinion and perception.

    A teacher I had in high school liked to say, “The media constructs reality”. It would be amazing if a little thing like a ⅓ share of one team ended up finally giving the Argos and the CFL the good press they deserve.

    Oh, and Brent, you can watch all the OUA games you want on . They livestream games and have them on demand, too. It’s the home university broadcasting students doing the game so there’s a few production values issues, but it’s there if you want it.

  8. It’s good news that there might be competition for the rights package. TSN has taken the CFL for granted and done a mostly terrible job producing the product. Normally, everything Sportsnet does is at a lower quality than TSN, but the bar here is so low that they can’t do worse. The upshot is not just potentially more money for the league, but a marginally professional broadcast as well which would be a massive improvement from what we have now (Cuthbert, Climie, and Stegall excepted).

    • There may be competition but don’t expect more money from declining ratings and more viewers cutting the cord.
      The CFL has gone from an average of 820k viewers per season to 520k, that’s not a good trend.
      Putting games on sportsnet is not going to increase ratings. I doubt Sportsnet would bid very high

  9. Freelasagnahunter // March 23, 2018 at 3:54 pm //

    Dont know it would be humanly possible to get a ” wrong” perception regarding Rogers anti CFL bias.
    Its plain, obvious, deliberate.

  10. It appears that most of the posters herein are not old enough to remember the paltry sum that the CFL was getting for TV rights BEFORE TSN stepped in, and upped the ante. YES, they should be paying more…much more…the CFL is a fanastic product, often in spite of league efforts to screw it up. ie. proposed cancelling of great sideline grabs by allowing speeding defenders to push/carry leaping receivers out of bounds. THIS IS STUPID BEYOND IMAGINATION!

  11. TSN has to do much better. The cameras could be better in stadium. They keep force feeding us Rod Black 1 or 2 games a week & he really needs to go. Duane Ford & Glen Suitor need to be better as well with their analysis. Suitor gets stuck on one subject & never shuts up about it. Can the In Booth interviews as Black & Suitor forget about the game going on. Too much emphasis on in Studio personalities. Not enough on the actual game & the people in the booth. New blood is needed along with a new direction. Hopefully Chris Schultz is back. Sometimes TSN is a clown show doing the games.

    • I can’t agree with you on this. They only used to use the roving field camera for the Grey Cup, East and West Finals, now they use it for Semis – Ottawa, Hamilton and Toronto games in the regular season. This is a big investment – makes the game look big time on TV!

      They went all out in their Grey Cup pre and post coverage and the camera angles on the big game were impressive. Yes, they have work to do, but their analysis and in game experience is excellent. We are fortunate to have a colour guy like Glen Suitor who loves the CFL. Top level talent like Chris Cuthbert is fantastic as well. Do you remember 10 years ago..? Wasn’t the same.

      Still I think Canadians would like to see CBC come back into it (nevermind Sportsnet) – Chris Walby was fantastic and it would give access to every Canadian. Couple this with TSN and a US TV deal on ESPN2 and the league could double it’s TV revenues.

    • Jim Fitzpatrick // March 23, 2018 at 6:03 pm //

      No kidding. The CFL was barely getting anything from CBC compared to TSN. The current TSN package and previous one saved the league.

    • Jim Fitzpatrick // March 23, 2018 at 6:05 pm //

      Totally disagree. TSN does a great job. Have you ever announced a live sports event or worked on one? I have, it’s a very tough thing to do, a lot tougher than most people think. Improvements can be made but cost is always a factor.

  12. Wow, unbelievable. So you want the personalities on TSN to be serious every moment of the game? Have you watched the NFL pre-game, half time and post-game shows? There is nothing wrong with having fun at work. TSN does a very good job overall of broadcasting the game. Where exactly do you want them to place the cameras? If you think for one minute that Sportsnet will do a better job, just check out their hockey coverage. In particular, their play-by-play guys. Romanuk and Randorf are the worst in the business and don’t even get me started on Micalef. What a horrible voice.

  13. CFL will end up on DAZN or similar. Big cable will be toast by 2021.

  14. tsn has not exposed the cfl enough; fans need to be bombarded with info including salaries for coaches too. if a decent linebacker like muamba isn’t getting a contract i wanna know why. nhl allows me to evaluate my teams gm by how well he allocates money

  15. Jim Fitzpatrick // March 23, 2018 at 6:09 pm //

    The only change I would like to see would be for both networks to get games. It would be interesting to see a situation similar to the old NFL dynamic that had most games on Sunday on two networks and one on ABC on Monday night. Perhaps the new deals for broadcasts could provide a Friday night doubleheader on one network(TSN) and the two other games on the other network on Saturday and Sunday(Sportsnet). If Halifax joins the league it would give three games to that network – perhaps one on Saturday and a Sunday doubleheader.

  16. Billinburlington // March 23, 2018 at 8:34 pm //

    I like that idea; however I would think the costs involved in producing those games would be way more than revenue generated. I suspect we are stuck with one broadcaster until the agreement ends… and beyond.

    I stopped listening to The Fan 590 because of their silence on CFL matters. Switched to TSN 1150 which provides much more attention to CFL matters.

  17. CdnFBFan // March 23, 2018 at 8:56 pm //

    The poster who made the comment re Rod Black is spot-on; he is the single biggest drag on all TSN broadcasts. So unbelievably out of touch, and can’t stand the bad puns and hyperbole anymore. As an Eastern CFL fan, I am stuck with his drivel almost every Friday night. Step one in an improved TSN production is to replace him pronto.

  18. Tired of Rod Black.

  19. Edward Leslie // March 24, 2018 at 4:42 am //

    I don’t like or trust Sportsnet. They would gladly like to see the CFL go under, if it meant Toronto’s chances of getting an NFL team would improve by 1%.
    As for TSN, they do a good job overall, but need to promote the CFL more. They need to produce a few documentaries and provide FULL draft coverage of the CFL College draft, not just the first round.
    They have five channels as part of their TV platform, so why do we need to be seeing the exact same SportsCentre telecast on four of them at the same time?

  20. Edward Leslie // March 24, 2018 at 4:49 am //

    I’m a dissenting voice here. I LIKE ROD BLACK.
    It would be nice if TSN would make some changes to add a fresh approach though.
    A new theme, some new halftime segments and one or two new on air faces would be nice. Perhaps a national live call in show one hour before games hosted by Kate Mckenna would be a good idea.
    If you don’t ever change, you stagnate and get tiresome. TSN, what say you??

    • With the exception of the Rod Black comment Edward puts up some great points. I would love to see a hourly show during the season with new faces with fresh insights who are well versed in the league that give a rundown of the league, stat rundown, weekly focus on a team & unsung player weekly. Not just one that are cobbled together from old segments from game day broadcasts. I get some of these from several CFL podcasts but they have limited access to the league & fan-base.

  21. patlynch // March 24, 2018 at 8:33 am //

    If Rogers is involved in future CFL game productions, then we viewers would probably have to listen to Arash Madani . I’d rather put needles in my eyes ! Keep Sportsnet away from Canadian football !

  22. Oskee Wee Wee // March 24, 2018 at 9:42 am //

    TSN is very good at doing sports broadcasts. They have very good knowledgeable CFL and NHL Insiders. They know and understand the market. But Sportsnet is not very good at covering sports and has deplorable issues. Sportsnet isn’t as good as analysts don’t know there stuff, workers don’t study and pronounce names wrong over and over and people are clue less. So I am hoping the CFL remains with TSN as more Canadians watch TSN and it has much better content.

  23. Rogers want the Argos to die so they can bring in and cover an NFL team. I don’t see that changing any time soon.

    • That will be a LONG, LONG wait for Rogers. No chance of an NFL franchise in Toronto. ZERO!!!

  24. Edward Leslie // March 25, 2018 at 3:42 am //

    Patlynch: I agree 100%. 3Downnation knows their posters too. There definitely seems to be no love for Sportsnet from true CFL fans. I don’t trust Sportsnet’s supposed newfound respect and caring about Canada’s football league.
    They can’t even put the CFL ahead of the NFL on their ticker on Grey cup day for crying out loud!

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