The future of the CFL

All this talk about outdated business models and the new cutbacks at Bell have made me think about what the future of the league will actually look like. Could the league survive without TSN? What if TSN pulled their deal or their next deal was for 1/2 as much? It is true that a league that relies on 50% of it's revenue from ticket sales cannot survive in the long term unless something changes.
It seems the teams that at least break even generally are able to consistently sell about 23,000 tickets a game . The three markets that lose the most money have had average paid attendance well below this over the last few years. So in order to survive long term the league might need to:
a)Find a way to attract 23,000 paid customers per game , per team, assuming the current TV deal stays similar in the future. With an aging demographic, is this even realistic?
b)Adopt a true revenue sharing model to help the struggling teams, but based on 2019 money reports, the league would still have lost money overall.
c)Lower team expenses so that 15,000 people per game is the new beak even point. This could mean a 3-4 million players salary cap, where QB's make 250-300K max and all others players are reduced accordingly.
d)Trying to find new and untapped revenue streams (?????)
e)Try to get a better TV deal from TSN or multiple networks in the future
f) Have more streaming and internet options besides TSN Direct.
The reality is, if TSN does not renew or cancel their current TV deal the CFL would be damaged upon repair. After yesterday's actions, I don't trust Bell to act in the best interest of the league.

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I wouldn't read too much into yesterday's radio station closures into the Bell's future and it's ability to pay for sports content

NBC is shutting down NBCSN but it's programing is moving to USA Network and some will go to Peacock. NBC is still bidding for the NHL's US contract which is up after this season.

Radio is a declining medium so Bell decided to cut areas that had a very low ROI. None of the TV channels were shut down and an increase is steaming will be the future which I see no reason why sports properties including the CFL wouldn't be a part of.

Agreed on the need to change their business model but TSN isn't going anywhere.


I can't see TSN doing that. It's more likely the CFL would be likely to get out the deal before 2025.

This is what happens when you put all of your eggs in one basket.

Leave it to Tom Wright to go exclusively with one network.

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What's the alternative? CBC isn't in that game, and can't come close to the production value and Sportsnet isn't interested.

There's 4 games (sometimes 3) a week. The exclusive package likely draws more than some sort of split.

Ratings are going down, not up. They missed a full season and on the verge of not playing a full season this year... And you think the CFL has some sort of leverage?


I don't think they do but it doesn't make sense for TSN to back out or cancel the deal at this time unless they have something to replace it during the summer months.

Soccer, as popular as it is in the 3 cities, is not a ratings bonanza overall unless it's the World Cup.

TSN can choose not to renew after 2025.

Bright lights and slick packaging won't bring in viewers. A lot of the shows and reports on TSN are being Zoomed in. You can learn a lot from inspecting what certain hosts and reporters' interests are with what is their bookcases.

Besides Rogers/Sportsnet uses the CBC studios in downtown Toronto for their Hockey Night in Canada and regional Canadian NHL telecasts. Sportsnet' main studio isn't big enough to host a full panel and crew members. Sportsnet production using CBC facilities looks fine to me.

I did suggest some sort a sub-licencing deal with CBC long as CBC doesn't take the brunt of the cost.


I ask this question at work when conversations get out of control.

What problem are we trying to solve?

Attendance is down, that is because of the product and demographic.
Viewership and Ratings are down - that is 100% not because of TSN. Nobody is not tuning in because of TSN. Its again, the product and the league.

TSN has been a valued partner for years - if there is no guaranteed positive upside for wanting to change the terms of the TSN agreement, why would the CFL do this? If Sportsnet or CBC was knocking down the league's door they would know, and would either go work with them or use it as leverage.

Is it possible that both sides are happy with the deal they signed and neither party believes the grass is greener without each other?


Another, more positive , way to look at it is that if Toronto and BC and Montreal could average about 22-23,000 fans a game each, then the whole league would be at at break even or small profit point and everyone's outlook might be different about the league. TV ratings were down compared to 7 or 8 years ago but still strong overall.
The Tiger-cats, in the 80's would only get 10-15,000 fans per game on a regular basis and there was not many kids or families going to the games. I remember on many occasions buying $2 end zone student special seats and then moving to an empty row in the North stands and having the whole row to myself. They even went bankrupt in 2003. In the last 16 years Bob Young and the Ticats have cultivated a consistently strong fan base with a great mix of all ages attending the games. So it is possible for a franchise to turn themselves around. Can it be done in the three biggest markets? Can it be done when the CFL's fan base is getting older? The Ticats are proof that it can be done under the right circumstances. On a slightly different note, I bet a CFL team in London or Quebec or Halifax could consistently get more fans to a game then the Argos do. (But that is a whole other thread).


Exactly. This is the unfortunate truth, the only thing that can improve the CFL is more Canadians becoming involved fans.

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I read a few of the responses, and everyone makes some good valid points. I started a thread similar to this.

I agree with you GiansoneItaliano. I remember when Saskatchewan was going to possibly fold in the mid to late 80's as they were loosing a lot of money. The current season ticket holders at the time ended up buying as many seats a possible to keep the team afloat. I remember those "Telefunds" they had on TV that they showed in Toronto back then.

TSN to me is not the issue here. They have been pretty generous with the TV money. However the for next contract, they (The CFL) will probably ask for more money, which is understandable.

The question is how does the CFL create more income? The West Division has always been in the last 30 years the staple on generating income. Strong attendance, strong merchandise sales, strong TV ratings, and strong concessions. (Excluding BC).

TSN to me is probably the only station that cares about the CFL. There are more TSN personalities that follow the league and are a fans.

Look at Sportsnet. Only Arash Madani, Stephen Brunt, and Tim Micilef are to me the only fans. I'll include now Chris Cuthbert as he is now part of Sportsnet. Rogers could care less of Canadian Football.

Bell Media should show more games and stream live not just on TSN, but CTV also since it's the same family.

For a Toronto, Montreal, and Vancullo, British Calabria (I'm making a joke here). They need to get to the kids of 10 years old and up to get a generation on fans. Give a lot of tickets out to schools and or athletic clubs on a regular basis. Do this for about 5 - 10 years. If you can get even half of this to attend in the future, your creating a fan base for the future etc.


Nope, not quite.

CTV is entirely part of Bell Media.

TSN, on the other hand, is part of CTV Specialty, which in itself is 80% owned by Bell Media, and 20% by ESPN.

I believe it's the ESPN part of the ownership that won't allow the CFL to be shown on the main CTV network.

Did not know. That sucks to not be shown on more channels then.

I always thought it was just a strategy by Bell to sell more cable subscriptions using TSN as bait, as you can get CTV with an antenna. It is a crime , IMO, that the Grey Cup is not on the full CTV network. People talk about the Grey Cup "only" getting 3-4 million viewers, compared to Superbowl, but until the Grey Cup is on regular CTV you can't really compare the numbers.


All industries world wide have been impacted by COVID19, including the mighty NFL. They put on a brave front, but ratings were down 7% to 9%(depends on what source the league wants to go by). Gate revenue were down hundred of millions of dollars.

A Dallas strength coach died at the age of 54 during practice during the US Thanksgiving week. a super spreader event, no mention on the cause of death(privacy concerns, who knows?)

TSN has been a great partner for the CFL, but business is a "what have you done for me lately" endeavor. The CFL should try to covertly find a suitable partner similar to what TSN has been after the TV deal ends in 2025,

Both leagues will have to tailor their business operations brought on by the pandemic. But the CFL has the more difficult task at hand.

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I would push really hard to market and generate interest in the CFL in the US. We could try to get a TV deal . I know many Americans who watch CFL football believe it or not .


That's the point to all of this. There is no other partner that will do what TSN does for the CFL. It's really that simple.

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I also may have stated in my earlier posts that it doesn't make sense for TSN to back out of the CFL at this time.

The CFL does not have any leverage either as to when it comes to sports options, there aren't many.

Other countries have deeper sports options and Canada only has two to choose from.

Maybe DAZN might be a option in the future. I put money down for that.


Love for DAZN to buy the CFL feed . TSN still has it's commercials intact for the DAZN viewer just like the NFL Canadian feed .

TSN and the CFL can get a little more cash and more exposure world wide .

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I wouldn't be surprised if the NFL said to Bell media "Our games are on DAZN whether you like it or not". Remember that TSN does not produce any NFL broadcasts they just grab the American feed and stick in their own commercials. The feeds generate from Fox, ABC (ESPN), NBC and CBS which are all included in Bell's basic cable package. TSN is included in their second tier cable packages. So this might be comparing Apples to Oranges. Don't get me wrong, being on DAZN might allow other people in other countries to follow the game and I would be all for it.

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