CFL-XFL merger media rights could be worth $100 million USD annually: report

There was no question that money is what drew both the XFL and CFL to the bargaining table when the two leagues announced formal talks for future collaboration earlier this month, but just how much could a merged league be worth to broadcasters?

$100 million USD annually apparently, according to one expert.

Daniel Cohen, a senior vice-president of global media rights consulting for New York-based media consulting firm Octagon, dropped that number in conversation with Postmedia’s Dan Barnes.

“If you had the same Canadian markets and the same U.S. markets, and you’re talking about a pretty big league now at that point — you might have to consolidate some of these markets — but if you’re talking about a property that can touch let’s say 30 of the top 60 (designated market areas) across Canada and the U.S., I think you could easily go to market and be asking for $100 million U.S. a year,” Cohen predicted.

That figure doesn’t come close to the 11 year, $113 billion dollar pay day recently announce by the NFL, but it is an improvement on the CFL’s current $50 million CAD deal with TSN. The XFL got primetime showcasing on major networks last time around, but did not receive broadcast revenue.

A combined XFL-CFL league has plenty to offer broadcasters and advertisers that might change that.

“I think one of the interesting things in a combined XFL/CFL merge is now, if you’re a brand or a media partner and you’ve got an interest in accessing Canada, or you’re a Canadian brand and you have interest in accessing the U.S., now it opens up two countries,” Cohen explained.

“The NFL can’t currently do that.”

Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia and RedBird Capital were selected as the winning bidders last August for all of the assets of Alpha Entertainment LLC, the parent company of the XFL. It cost $15 million and the goal is to make the XFL a stable league in the future.

RedBird Capital brings that to the table with $4 billion in capital, but it’s the star power of The Rock that will bring people in.

“You want to make sure you find the right balance … so this isn’t The Rock’s show because you want to focus on the quality of the sport and the authenticity of the sport and the players on the field. But I absolutely think that there is a storytelling element there where The Rock could certainly be intertwined to immediately raise the awareness of the league and drive immediate attention to the league,” Cohen said.

The CFL has been awarding the Grey Cup for over 100 years. Meanwhile, the original XFL lasted one full season in 2001. The XFL lasted just part of one season before the COVID-19 pandemic put their season on hold, which led to Vince McMahon filing for bankruptcy and selling to Johnson and Garcia.

The CFL was has been wracked by it’s own financial struggles from COVID, losing between $60 and $80 million last year, and the XFL’s cheque book could solve that problem, but potentially at the cost of many of the league’s hallmarks.

The three down league does bring something to the table besides its established Northern presence however, its recent forays into global markets.

“What I like about the alliances they’re forming and I’m hoping this is heading in that direction, is that this XFL/CFL league will start to pull in players from Mexico, football players from Japan, and that is going to say to TV Asahi and NHK, this is interesting, I want to broadcast in Japan one CFL game a week because players X, Y and Z are playing in the league,” Cohen said.

“The leagues that are most successful internationally tend to have players from all parts of the world and that’s the model the XFL and CFL should follow.”

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