TSN takes pride in its CFL product

Regina Leader-Post
Friday, June 27, 2014

By: Greg Harder



TSN has about 40 million reasons to embrace its role in the heightened profile of the CFL.

The league signed a fiveyear contract extension last spring which officially kicks in this season, securing TSN as its exclusive television partner through 2018.


The landmark deal, valued at approximately $40 million per season, has been called a game changer for the budget conscious CFL - tangible affirmation of its increased value within the Canadian sports landscape.


The new contract is believed to be worth almost three times more than the previous deal, an investment which means that TSN's commitment to the CFL is stronger than ever.

That said, it doesn't mean the network is planning to stray from its tried-and-true



As the old saying goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix.


"We don't feel pressure to up our game," said Mark Milliere, TSN's senior vicepresident of production. "We're very proud of the work we've done on it. More than anything you feel that extra sense of ownership. It's Year 1 of an exclusive arrangement and you want to keep building on all the momentum you put behind it and keep growing it. That's not pressure, it's more excitement."


TSN and the CFL entered into their first exclusive television agreement in 2008, ending the league's 55-year relationship with CBC.


The move was followed by a steady ratings upswing - in conjunction with a period of unprecedented growth for the league - which validated the network's faith in the product, not to mention its investment.


"It's a huge source of pride," offered Milliere, TSN's second in command. "Everyone at TSN feels they've had a hand in that. The CFL is a great product. To see where the momentum is at, where it's building, to see the new stadiums coming on board, to see the job that (commissioner) Mark (Cohon) and his team have done in terms of building the league and working together with them, it's very rewarding."


Although the CFL's lucrative deal with TSN was regarded as being good for the league, it also provided some ammunition for the players heading into negotiations this spring for a new collective bargaining agreement. After several weeks of posturing and on-again, offagain talks, the sides came to an agreement in the midst of training camps, ending the threat of a strike and ensuring the season would begin as scheduled.


"You look at it and go, 'That's just the byproduct of a successful league,' " noted Milliere. "When a league starts getting that momentum and that success, everyone wants their slice. It's just like other leagues. They all go through it. There's obviously angst that goes with that when you're the broadcaster, hoping it all gets resolved. You don't want to break stride. Thankfully they got it resolved."


TSN was recently involved in a strenuous negotiation of its own when the network was outbid by rival Sportsnet for the national rights to NHL hockey.


Despite that setback, Milliere said the network is going full steam ahead with its remaining stable of sports properties, including the CFL.


"We still have a ton of hockey to produce," he said. "I'll produce as many hockey games or more this regular season than I did last year (due in part to the acquisition of regional broadcasts). The NHL is still a huge part of TSN.


"The CFL has always been a priority for us because of its exclusive arrangement. That is unique, like our Hockey Canada arrangement. I don't know if anything changes. We feel a tremendous amount of ownership - a tremendous amount of pride - in terms of the growth of the league. We just want to keep going with that momentum."


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