Commissioner Randy Ambrosie: CFL ‘very close’ to reaching new American TV deal

Courtesy: Brett Holmes/CFL

The CFL is close to striking a new deal for its American television rights, commissioner Randy Ambrosie revealed at the league’s winter meetings in Kananaskis, Alta.

“The deal’s not completed yet but I’m hoping that sometime in the not-too-distant future, we’ll make that announcement. That’s going to be a real step forward for us,” Ambrosie said. “Obviously, our number one priority is growing and building our fan base in Canada — we’re going to focus on that — but [the United States is] the biggest football market in the world and half of our players come out of that ecosystem, so we need to take advantage of that.”

The CFL has sold its US television rights to ESPN for the past number of years, though they’ve done so mostly to gain exposure south of the border. According to 3DownNation reporter John Hodge, the deal is worth between $100,000 to $200,000 USD annually, which is paltry compared to the approximately $50 million CAD the league reportedly receives from TSN each year to be its exclusive Canadian broadcasting partner.

Now that American broadcasters have had a chance to see how the CFL performs on ESPN, the league is undoubtedly hoping to create a more substantial revenue stream by striking a richer deal with a US partner. One of the ways in which Ambrosie is hoping to do this is by connecting American audiences to former US college stars who currently play in the CFL.

“Half of our players come from US colleges. How do we connect those fan bases to our game? How do we make sure that they know somebody like Zach Collaros, who’s played at Cincinnati, that the Bearcats fans know … they can watch him play in the CFL?”

Ambrosie indicated that Genius Sports, the league’s data and technology partner, is helping the CFL strike a deal with an American partner.

“Genius has some remarkable capabilities and one of the things we found when we sat down with our potential US broadcast partners is their interest in how Genius can really help us take our relationship to the next level. That was a real highlight for me of those discussions with potential US broadcasters,” Ambrosie said.

“The conversations were really quite holistic and really very comprehensive. The goal is of the relationship that we ultimately hope to announce shortly and all relationships to follow is to really grow and build that fan base in the US.”

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.