TSN, Genius Sports to make presentations to CFLPA ahead of labour talks

Photo courtesy: Randy Ambrosie

The CFL and its players’ association have yet to engage in formal talks concerning the expiring collective bargaining agreement, but they will not be the only two parties talking during the negotiation.

During an appearance in Calgary as part of his Randy’s Road Trip tour, commissioner Ambrosie revealed that the league’s exclusive broadcaster and new data technology partner will be presenting the details of the investment in the league directly to the players.

“We’ve been doing everything we can to set the stage for the kickoff [of negotiations], we have a couple more groups we want to share with the players before we really get down to start talking about issues,” Ambrosie said Tuesday.

“One of them is we want to introduce them to Genius Sports and have Genius do a presentation so the players understand the full power of that platform. I’ve asked TSN to speak to the players because that relationship between TSN, the players and the league is really a three-party relationship and we all rely on each other.”

Genius Sports reached an agreement with the CFL in December which gave the sports data and technology company a minority stake in the CFL’s commercial arm. The company is expected to provide tailored marketing to fans, facilitate sports betting, and advance the league’s broadcast capabilities.

TSN has been the CFL’s exclusive television broadcast partner since 2008. TSN and its French-language counterpart, RDS, hold exclusive media rights to all CFL games, including the Grey Cup. In addition to broadcast and digital rights, the deal features exclusive radio rights to the Grey Cup for Bell Media’s Grey Cup Radio Network.

In March 2013, the CFL and TSN agreed to a five-year broadcast agreement that was reportedly worth $43 million annually, starting in 2014. That was more than two-and-a-half times the previous five-year agreement, which was worth $15 million a year.

The two sides agreed to an extension in September of 2019, agreeing to a six-year exclusive contract worth upwards of $50 million annually. Broadcasting revenue is a vital piece of the CFL’s business model and is said to cover the cost of the salary cap for all nine teams.

The player’s would like a bigger piece of both those revenue streams going forward, while the league will likely try to sell the union on the potential for longer term growth if they accept less up front on a new collective bargaining agreement.

The existing collective agreement between the CFL and CFLPA was ratified prior to the 2019 season and it was amended prior to the 2021 season to help facilitate a safe return under pandemic restrictions. The current agreement expires on May 14, 2022.

Players took a massive financial hit over the course of the pandemic but appear to be on more trusting footing with the league than in years past, in part due to increased financial transparency. Speaking directly to two vital league partners will only improve that situation.

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.