CFL in DAZN? Rogers and TSN no longer the only competitors for sports rights in Canada

Rogers and TSN are no longer the only players when it comes to securing the rights to sports properties like the CFL.

Subscription video streaming services like DAZN could make more of a dent on the Canadian sporting scene over the coming years while online powerhouses like Twitter, Facebook and Amazon could be in the mix as well – particularly when the league’s contract with TSN comes up for renewal after the 2021 season.

One example of the changing dynamics came last summer at the RBC Canadian Open golf tournament. Coverage was provided by a varied lineup that included TSN/RDS, Global TV, DAZN, Twitter, PGA Tour Live, the Golf Channel and Facebook.

“TSN and Sportsnet are no longer the only players within,” said Tom Mayenknecht, who hosts a sports business show that airs on TSN Radio and other stations around the country. “They’re the lead players for sure, but they’re part of a much more organic, changing landscape.”

The last seismic shift came when Rogers signed a massive US$5.2-billion, 12-year deal to land the league’s broadcasting rights in 2013, a move that gave Sportsnet an immediate edge in its long-running rivalry with TSN. After some early challenges, Rogers is set to get more bang for its buck as more teams from north of the border move into contention.

“The length of that deal was extraordinary and the amount that they paid was extraordinary,”said sports marketing expert Richard Powers, an associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. “I think they’re actually leveraging it quite well. I don’t know what else they can do. Everybody knows it’s Rogers.”

Sportsnet, which is part of Rogers Media, bills itself as Canada’s No. 1 sports media brand. The network’s main rival since its inception in 1998 has been TSN, which calls itself Canada’s sports leader, and is a division of Bell Media. Nowadays, each network boasts multiple feeds, online and mobile viewing options, and an impressive lineup of marquee international properties.

In addition to hockey, some of Sportsnet’s domestic offerings include the Toronto Blue Jays/MLB (the Blue Jays are owned by Rogers), the Grand Slam of Curling and the Canadian Hockey League. TSN’s lineup includes some regional NHL games along with the CFL, world junior hockey championship and the Season of Champions curling events.

“I think (the rivalry is) great for consumers and for viewers,” Powers said. “It keeps both teams, at each network, it keeps their eyes on the ball so to speak, no pun intended. They are looking for ways to beat the competition … so I think the ultimate winners are the fans and the viewers.”

One deal that is up in just over a year is TSN’s contract with Curling Canada for the Season of Champions events. It will be worth watching to see if Sportsnet doubles down on a ratings winner like curling by trying to land the package, which includes the Tim Hortons Brier, Scotties Tournament of Hearts and world championships.

“Sometimes you acquire rights just to sort of put a stake in the ground in terms of the bigger picture,” said Mayenknecht. “That’s where I would really start. The bigger picture is that we probably have the most competitive sports television landscape that we’ve ever had in this country.”

However, one big question mark remains as Sportsnet has yet to name a successor for president Scott Moore. He left the company in October, with Rogers Media president Rick Brace currently handling the position on an interim basis.

Moore has said that if Sportsnet hadn’t landed the NHL rights, the network would have become a “regional, inconsequential player.” He added the deal has paid for itself each year because Sportsnet can enjoy the financial returns that come with it.

“If you’re going to buy sports media in this country now, you’re going to call us first,” Moore told The Canadian Press last October. “It used to be all the big deals went to TSN and we got what was left over.”

– CP




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