CFL ‘wanted’ games to be on CTV ‘for a long time’: Randy Ambrosie

Photo: Michael Scraper/CKRM

The CFL returns to CTV for the first time in almost 40 years this fall and commissioner Randy Ambrosie offered insight into how it came about.

“Full marks to (TSN president Stewart) Johnson. (Stewart) and I have been talking about this for some time and I think they are committed to the future of the league and they’re really committed to the future of our partnership,” Ambrosie told 620 CKRM.

“(Stewart) and I kept talking about it and then he called and said: ‘Listen, I think we’re going to make some magic.’ It’s going to be really great — one game every weekend, playoffs, and, of course, Grey Cup. It’s very exciting for us and certainly something we’ve wanted for a long time and it’s come to fruition.”

The CFL hasn’t been on over-the-air broadcast television since 2007, one year prior to TSN becoming the league’s exclusive TV partner. TSN and CTV, Canada’s largest television network, are both owned by Bell Media, though the parent company has kept the CFL exclusively as part of its cable sports television offerings since acquiring the rights.

“I think we have momentum — everywhere you look, this has been an exciting time these last couple of seasons. I think the flywheel is turning and people are noticing,” Ambrosie said.

“Last year’s TV ratings were up dramatically, attendance is up. I think in no small part what’s happening in the major markets, B.C. with (owner) Amar Doman — the [home] opening game of the season for them, 50-some thousand people — they had a sellout in Montreal, now we’re seeing good things happening in Toronto.”

The CFL was shown on CTV from 1962 to 1986 with the network simulcasting the Grey Cup with CBC during that time. Ambrosie indicated he believes Bell’s recent change of heart came after seeing how positively the league has been trending, particularly in Canada’s largest cities.

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