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 is a Regina-based sports writer, broadcaster and football fanatic. He is also a beer aficionado.