Why the CFL chose not to livestream the 2023 combine

Photo: Michael Scraper/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

The CFL caused a buzz on social media when the 2023 combine got underway without a livestream of the event available on YouTube.

The combine isn’t traditionally a huge draw for the league but serves as an opportunity to showcase many of the draft’s top prospects, some of whom will become household names at the professional level. The combine has been streamed on YouTube in recent years with videos of last year’s event garnering between 10,000 and 20,000 views apiece.

One of the primary reasons this year’s combine isn’t being livestreamed is location. The event is being held in Edmonton for the first time, which the league claims poses logistical challenges given their league office staff are generally based out of Toronto.

The field size at the Commonwealth Stadium Field House was also a concern as the venue is home to only 60 yards of turf. The limited amount of space, though appropriate for on-field drills, makes it difficult to safely stage a video production.

The other main issue is cost. The event’s new five-day format cost more money to put on, which made it challenging for the league to generate the budget necessary for a full-scale production. A spokesperson indicated that the league considered doing a scaled-down version of the livestream but ultimately decided that no broadcast was better than one that lacked the desired level of production.

There were several stationary cameras recording the on-field action on Friday in order to provide CFL teams with film of the prospects. TSN, the league’s official broadcasting partner, did not have a camera at the event on Thursday or Friday.

The league has yet to determine a location for next year’s combine and will reconsider all its aspects moving forward, including the livestream. Edmonton is interested in hosting the combine again in 2024, per source, though other markets have had preliminary discussions with the league about staging it elsewhere.

There aren’t many appropriate venues for the combine across the country. The event requires an indoor field surface, a significant number of hotel rooms, and access to a major airport. A league official indicated that it does not plan to host another combine on a temporary surface, which it did as part of CFL Week in Winnipeg in 2018.

“The new format is with the player’s best interest in mind — giving them the best opportunity to showcase their talent. The traditional combine format catered to a live stream production,” the CFL wrote in a statement to 3DownNation.

“The new five-day format with three days of practice was developed to better assess a greater range of transferrable football skills, which is more conducive to player evaluation, but presents more challenges to provide an engaging streaming product.”

3DownNation has informally discussed the new combine format with dozens of coaches, personnel staff, agents, and prospects since Wednesday and it has received almost exclusively positive reviews. Prospects have also been complimentary of the playing surface.

This year’s combine got underway on Wednesday with player medicals and measurements followed by the testing events on Thursday. Friday was the first of three on-field days, which will run through Sunday morning.

John Hodge is a Canadian football reporter based in Winnipeg.