Following the announcement last week regarding the Canadian Premier League, there is plenty of discussion on its viability. Its uncertainty is mainly attributable to past failures with similar soccer leagues that were previously attempted in Canada. Consequently, there are many issues that need to be resolved prior to its inaugural season to ensure the league launches successfully. However, with the extensive research that has been conducted and a clear growth in Canadian soccer popularity, the league looks as poised as ever to survive and ultimately thrive.
Through fan discussion and statements released, the issues regarding the league include player wages, player quality, academy systems, travel expenses and stadium usage. While each matter is truly significant, the relevance and success of the CPL hinges on securing a television deal. Yes, player quality and professional-standard stadiums are essential, however not securing a television deal will be a deal breaker for potential fans.
The only way supporters will consider the CPL a truly professional league will be to watch their club live on television. After all, this is 2016 and everyone in Canada is able to watch their favorite professional team on television in some capacity. How else can a club expect to attract fans if they are unable to watch their team play or see highlights of the match?
Furthermore, there would surely be little to no discussion regarding the league if it is not shown on television, making it virtually unknown to casual fans, resulting in poor attendance. To get young adults attached and to create passion for their club, the games need to be televised. All those factors will increase potential attendance and popularity which is fantastic, but a TV deal will also assist financially in providing television and sponsorship revenue. This will allow owners to avoid massive losses for the first few years of existence and allow the league to have a legitimate chance to develop.
Evidently, television stations do care about their ratings and as a result, may have cheaper and more popular shows to televise than the Canadian Premier League. Realistically, not everyone is going to rush to their television to watch soccer that will be inferior to MLS, a league that still suffers from minor television ratings despite having some world class players. However, with two Canadian teams playing and the excitement of a brand new league, ratings could be a little better especially if they are on a major television network.
The obvious choice for a television deal is with TSN which could tie into their deal with the CFL, given the likeliness of identical ownership and stadiums. Assuming 8 teams in the league, most weeks would only have four matches. With five TSN channels and not that many live broadcasts shown, there must be room for the CPL to at least feature a "Match of the week" at a consistent date and time.
Other channels including CBC or City TV could feature their own game of the week as they have been known to broadcast local sporting events. As long as one of these major broadcasters can show at least one match a week, it will be beneficial to the perception of the league and creates additional revenue. The ultimate goal would be to broadcast even more than one game per week including the entirety of the playoffs.
To supplement the featured match of the week, TSN should be obligated to do a highlight package of all the games in their SportsCentre highlight show, even if they aren't the official broadcaster. This will increase legitimacy and allow general sports fans to stumble across a highlight show and become interested in the league. TSN should also display the scores of matches on their ticker at the bottom of the screen which will certainly enhance interest and increase awareness to the average sports fan.
Other methods to televise CPL matches would be to attract local broadcast channels to televise their home team's matches. For example, Rogers TV in Toronto used to broadcast CSL games in the past and if a Toronto team were involved, they should be able to broadcast games as well. Hopefully this could apply to every team in the league since each club will likely operate in major Canadian cities.
With each passing week, it seems more likely that the Canadian Premier League will launch in 2018 rather than 2017. Therefore, with more than two years until its inaugural match, the CSA must consider each issue above and prioritize securing a television deal. By providing fans the ability to watch their favorite team play every week and become accustomed to the league, the Canadian Premier League will be able to increase popularity and financial stability.