A big change is coming to the Canadian sports broadcasting landscape and that could be good news for the CFL down the road.
Recently the National Football League announced that international rights (which now includes Canada) to their streaming service, NFL Game Pass have been sold to international sports streaming service DAZN (pronounced DaZone, apparently). The London, England based service has been growing in popularity in parts of Asia and Europe as it currently holds broadcast or streaming rights to some soccer, rugby, tennis, hockey, baseball and more on those continents.
DAZN is making its move into the North America market through Canada by adding exclusive rights to NFL Sunday Ticket and RedZone on top of Game Pass for the next five years (so, don’t look for that as part of your cable package anymore).
For the time being, this doesn’t really affect the CFL. Bell Media currently owns exclusive rights to essentially everything to do with video and broadcasting of a CFL game. That being said, if there is an opportunity for the CFL to get on board with DAZN or another service they absolutely should. The league is currently looking for ways to attract a younger audience and streaming has increasingly become the go-to way for 20 and 30-year-olds to consume content. I would know, because I’m at the older end of what is considered a millennial, as are most of my friends, and we stream a lot of sports and TV. You know what most of us are planning to do? Subscribe to DAZN for at least the NFL season, maybe more. This is hardly a significant sample size, it’s about as reliable as Professor John Miller’s CFL Fans Study. That being said, I feel like we are not alone.
When Rogers acquired the NHL rights a few years ago now, they made sure to buy up the rights to NHL GameCentre Live in Canada as they felt this kind of service was the future of sports broadcasting.
In a perfect world, DAZN or another service would be able to buy up streaming rights to at least some games from Bell Media so the CFL could get the streaming presence it badly needs in its home and native land ahead of a new broadcast deal that brought streaming on-board full-time. DAZN seems to make the most sense with a built in football audience already subscribing to the service, however, anything will be better than what the league currently has. TSNGO is a fine service, but it doesn’t really help out those who don’t have cable.
Whether it’s through DAZN, TSN or the league itself, it’s time the CFL offered a true streaming service for fans in Canada. That doesn’t mean the league should abandon traditional TV when the next deal is up, but non-traditional broadcasting needs to be considered more than it currently is.