Sources: CSB Confident Fans Will Be Able To Tune In For National Team, CPL Matches
The cat came out of the bag this week: Canadian Soccer Business and Mediapro are now engaged in a legal dispute that has not only ended the working relationship between the two, but has both sides pointing fingers and seeking damages in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
The kickstarter to the dispute came when Mediapro delivered a termination letter to CSB in late 2023, though Canadian Soccer Business purports that the broadcaster had no entitlement terminate and resile the agreement between the two.
With the men’s and women’s national teams set to play in March and April and the Canadian Premier League’s sixth season kicking off in the latter month, the CSB looks hard-pressed to find a broadcast and production solution that will give fans something to tune in to – but, sources say, the company has a plan that it’s confident in.
The CPL, despite looking impressive on the pitch, is a property that has not found a high valuation amongst domestic cable broadcasters. OneSoccer even found itself embroiled in a CRTC dispute with Rogers in a matter which saw the latter describe the CPL as a lower-level league with a ‘modest following’.
Even Christine Sinclair’s farewell match, which was a produced in its entirety by Mediapro, only found its way to TSN after Canadian Soccer Business offered it at no cost to the sports channel. In the Pre-Mediapro days, TSN had even gotten paid to bring national team matches to the platform.
The tumultuous times have left Canadian soccer fans pondering how – or if – they’ll be able to tune into these matches for 2024. Speaking with a trusted source who has knowledge of CSB’s present position, we’ve gleamed that the higher-ups within Canadian Soccer Business are strongly confident that fans who had previously subscribed to OneSoccer will be able to keep on watching elsewhere without interruption.
“You’re going to be able to watch games. That’s not going to change,” said one of the sources, with another corroborating that there was indeed a plan in place.
If we remove the big if when it comes to domestic fans being able to watch, the next big question is certainly how. The league has tried a standalone niche digital streaming service with Mediapro-owned OneSoccer, with Mediapro’s failure to break into traditional mainstream cable being one of the reasons behind the legal dispute – though there are missed targets on both sides of the table.
While Canadian Soccer Business says it has reclaimed the rights to the domestic broadcast of the men’s and women’s national teams, the Canadian Championship, and the Canadian Premier League, its severance from Mediapro leaves it needing both a new broadcaster and a production team, too.
When it comes to filming the matches, Mediapro isn’t the only big service in town: Dome Productions services most North American major leagues along with the newly-launched PWHL and, shortly enough, looks set to assist Project 8 in that regard as well.
Owned by Bell and Rogers, it’s got a massive fleet of mobile production centres in its arsenal, though if they have the capacity to add on the CPL’s 112 regular season matches from coast-to-coast on short notice remains to be seen, and there are Canadian Championship, national team, and playoff bouts which would add to that number.
While Ben Steiner reports that CSB has approached TSN (Bell) and Sportsnet (Rogers), he also astutely pointed out that these broadcast deals do not typically come with a production crew – something which Mediapro used its subsidiary OneSoccer for.
That’s a hurdle the CSB would need to quickly find a solution for if they’re to use Dome Productions as an alternative. At the moment, it’s not clear what Mediapro Canada will do with its fleet: while CSB properties weren’t its only business, it was the company’s main working relationship.
With OneSoccer now devoid of Canadian content after having called itself the home of Canadian soccer, layoffs look to be looming for the Mediapro subsidiary’s employees.
With CSB confident that fans from coast-to-coast will be able to access the matches, how they approach it remains a mystery: getting matches on big channels like TSN or Sportsnet has been long-coveted goal but seems more unlikely, though having them on their affiliated streaming services could be more attainable, if less enviable.
The league has previously found its way on to CBC Sports, though that was using OneSoccer’s in-stadium production crews. fuboTV had simulcasted OneSoccer’s channel, though the digital streaming niche clearly isn’t the be-all and end-all.
The fledging PWHL offers each match on YouTube, maximizing the league’s reach to interested fans while also having games split between multiple cable channels. That’s an ideal solution, but as one CSB source says, there are several comparable leagues to the CPL who are modelling a variety of solutions yet.
For now, it remains to be seen what path Canadian Soccer Business believes will best serve the organization, though the CSB is confident that Canadian soccer fans will still be able to access all of the company’s properties from coast-to-coast this year.
The men’s national team play a crucial Copa America play-in against Trinidad and Tobago on March 23, the women’s national team will face Brazil in the SheBelieves Cup on April 6, and the Canadian Premier League will kick off on April 13.
With the legal action ongoing, Canadian Soccer Business certainly finds itself in the hotseat to find a solution in the near future – but behind the scenes, there is confidence that a solution will be in place for the near future.
Header Image Photo Credit: John Jacques