Dan Barnes of the Toronto Sun talked with Daniel Cohen. Cohen is a senior vice-president of global media rights for Octagon, a leader in sports and entertainment marketing.
He breaks down why he thinks an XFL/CFL merge has real value for both leagues.
“If you had the same Canadian markets and the same U.S. markets, and you’re talking about a pretty big league now at that point — you might have to consolidate some of these markets — but if you’re talking about a property that can touch let’s say 30 of the top 60 (designated market areas) across Canada and the U.S., I think you could easily go to market and be asking for $100 million U.S. a year.”
Right now TSN pays the CFL about $50 million CAD per year. What if their league could tap into the US TV money market as well.
We know when The Rock, Dany Garcia, and RedBird Capital purchased the XFL out of bankruptcy, a lucrative TV deal is what they were after. But after only a 5 game season, shortened by the pandemic, it would be hard to land something of significance on its own.
If someone was going to pay a huge amount of TV money for the XFL in 2020, under Oliver Luck and Vince McMahon, that would have happened. It didn’t, however, the XFL did draw good numbers on TV, they now have The Rock and his brand but that might not be enough.
To land a big TV deal you need more, enter the CFL and its markets. Now you have a bigger property to take to TV partners.
“When you do consolidate, you scale, and when you scale you drive greater demand for your rights, be it media rights or sponsorship,” said Cohen. “I think one of the interesting things in a combined XFL/CFL merge is now, if you’re a brand or a media partner and you’ve got an interest in accessing Canada, or you’re a Canadian brand and you have interest in accessing the U.S., now it opens up two countries. The NFL can’t currently do that. They still haven’t moved the (Buffalo) Bills to Toronto, right?”
“I think from a geographic perspective, a scale perspective, (it’s a) very much differentiated offering to a bi-national or multi-national brand or broadcaster.
ESPN and their partnership with TSN gets a lot more creative. Amazon and other global streamers say I can grab another 30 million potential fans up in Canada. That’s interesting.”
The CFL is trying to get their 2021 season underway by asking players to take a 20% pay cut. The CFL needs fans in the stands to cover its cost for a season. Without a pay cut or fans in the stands, the CFL might not get off the ground on time.
The CFL could have a shortened season, once vaccine rollouts increase in Canada and fans are allowed back into stadiums. But even if this happens in a timely manner, they could still play a season at only 50% capacity in the stands. I highly double we would see filled stadiums in the US in the summer of 2021, let alone in Canada.
The XFL has said it is pausing plans on a 2022 season as talks with the CFL are ongoing. Our own Mike Michell reported the likely hood of an XFL season in 2022 is dim.
But a blockbuster TV deal that involves both leagues could cure all those ills. You assume that Dany Garcia, Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson, and Gerry Cardinale of RedBird Capital have been going all out to land a big TV contract since they purchased the XFL in August of 2020.
“What I like about the alliances they’re forming and I’m hoping this is heading in that direction, is that this XFL/CFL league will start to pull in players from Mexico, football players from Japan, and that is going to say to TV Asahi and NHK, this is interesting, I want to broadcast in Japan one CFL game a week because players X, Y and Z are playing in the league. … The leagues that are most successful internationally tend to have players from all parts of the world and that’s the model the XFL and CFL should follow.”
An alliance of the XFL and CFL could be a real game-changer for a Global sports brand. The CFL already has partnerships with football leagues across the globe. In fact, the CFL Global Draft is set to take place on April 15th at 1 p.m. ET. Building up players from other countries is something the NFL does not do, only focusing on homegrown US talent.
When Yao Ming entered the NBA in 2002, he brought the Chinese market with him. That was huge for the NBA. Ming entered the league and was an 8-time All-Star. Football players outside of North America are not on that All-Star level yet but they could be down the road.
If an XFL/CFL league can bring in players from other countries and build them up as stars, that could be a game-changer for the league and set itself apart from all the major sports leagues in the US.
One thing we know about Dany Garcia and The Rock, they know how to make stars. It could make things very exciting for the future of both leagues.
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