CFL committed to earlier announcements for Grey Cup halftime shows

Photo: Bob Butrym/3DownNation. All rights reserved

CFL fans can get used to early Grey Cup halftime show announcements as the league has committed to booking acts at least seven months before the big game each year.

“This past year, we had a very successful Grey Cup in Hamilton. We signed Green Day — which was a huge success for us — but we signed them quite late in the process. One of the things that we talked about is that we were never gonna go down that path again (from a timeline standpoint),” Ambrosie told the media in Vancouver.

“We’ve had a long partnership with Universal Music and we said to Universal, ‘We want to do this, we want Universal to be our partner, but here’s a deadline: April 15. We have to have our halftime signed, sealed, delivered, because it’s just going to be better for all of us if we know exactly what we’ve got in store.’ … It was really just the recognition that leaving it hanging is not good for us.”

Ambrosie, who has served as the CFL’s commissioner since 2017, also believes that earlier halftime show announcements can help spur ticket sales, as has been the case with B.C.’s annual concert kickoff series. 50 Cent has been hired to play at the Lions’ upcoming home opener, which has resulted in ticket sales for the game reaching over 50,000.

Green Day was announced as the halftime show for last year’s Grey Cup on Sept. 30, only seven weeks before the game. The contest was eventually announced as a sellout on Nov. 13, six days before the matchup between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Montreal Alouettes. Had the announcement happened sooner, it’s arguable that tickets would have sold out more quickly.

Tickets for the 111th Grey Cup in Vancouver went on sale to the general public on Tuesday, one day after the Jonas Brothers were announced as the act for this year’s halftime show.

Ambrosie revealed that industry changes have made it harder for the league to book top acts for Grey Cup, another reason they intend to make earlier bookings moving forward.

“The music industry has changed so dramatically. For the longest time, we could attract performers because we could offer them millions of eyeballs on their music and they would use that to sell albums. In that industry now, their biggest revenue stream is not coming from album sales, and a lot of this is why there’s so many live performances, because that’s where their revenue is,” said Ambrosie.

“What we found is that it was getting more and more difficult to get an act to sign on and the pressure mounts. If you’re in June and you haven’t signed your act, in July there’s no less pressure, there’s more, then in August (there’s even more pressure).”

The 61-year-old native of Winnipeg, Man. indicated that B.C. Lions’ owner Amar Doman wanted to hire an act that would attract a younger demographic of fans, which appears to have paid early dividends. Ambrosie’s daughters told him they were thrilled with the selection and will make the trip to Vancouver for the game, though they were disappointed he didn’t tip them off before the announcement was made.

“I’ll take a little bit of a beating (from my daughters for not telling them), but it’s worth it,” said Ambrosie. “The fact that we were able to get through — because it was quite a few weeks since we did the deal — the fact that it absolutely wasn’t in the marketplace at all is testimony to a pretty tight circle.”

The 111th Grey Cup is scheduled for Nov. 17, 2024, at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, marking the first time in a decade that the city has hosted the CFL’s championship game. The 112th Grey Cup has been awarded to Winnipeg, though a date for the game has yet to be announced.