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By Daniel Fung, TSN Contributor - Archive - Email
CFL deserves kudos for U.S. television deal
Vancouver, BC (Sports Network) - They may have to get used to the idea of a single-point "rouge" and an end zone that is 10 yards deeper but more fans in the United States will be exposed to unique rule quirks of Canadian football thanks to a new broadcast arrangement announced by the CFL last week with the NBC Sports Network.

The broadcast agreement with the NBC Sports Network, formerly known as VERSUS, includes coverage of the 100th Grey Cup game to be held at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, the East and West Division semi-finals and finals, along with nine regular season contests.

From the CFL's standpoint the deal with the NBC Sports Network has to be considered a victory on every level.

The league has not enjoyed a more prolific American broadcast partner since the mid-1990's when ESPN and ESPN2, thanks to the league expanding into the U.S., carried CFL games on a regular basis.

The CFL had teams based in the U.S. from 1993 to 1995. ESPN2 aired CFL games up until 1997.

The league had been without a national television home south of the border this season after not renewing with the NFL Network which had carried CFL broadcasts for the past two seasons.

While the league's primary purpose for television coverage in the U.S. has typically been more about exposing potential players to the product for the purposes of recruitment, being on the NBC Sports Network gives the league the potential to reach out to the casual football fan - something they haven't had much success doing since their ill-fated U.S. expansion experiment.

The NBC Sports Network, whose major properties include the National Hockey League and Major League Soccer, reaches nearly 80 million homes. The NFL Network, by comparison, has 41 million subscribers with a reach of roughly 70 million homes.

Perhaps the most critical part in the new deal with the NBC Sports Network is that the CFL now has a guaranteed home for its playoff games and the Grey Cup on American television.

Last season, the NFL Network held the option to carry the 99th Grey Cup as well as all four playoff games but understandably passed with those contests all taking place on a Sunday in the middle of the NFL season. As a result the league had to shift its post-season games to the America One network which has a reach of just 30 million homes.

The majority of fans in the United States, at least those who had enough interest to seek out the playoff games last year, had to stream the games online at ESPN3.com.

ESPN3.com has been the exclusive provider for live streaming coverage of the CFL in the U.S. since 2010.

Having a big name such as NBC attached to their brand has immeasurable value, not to mention there is a heritage element to the deal as well.

According to CFL Stats Researcher Larry Robertson, the CFL has been involved with NBC dating back to the 1930 Grey Cup game which was carried on the NBC Radio Network. NBC television also broadcast CFL games as recently as 1982 during the NFL Players' strike.

The NBC Sports Network will be picking up the telecasts produced by TSN in Canada which, since taking over as the exclusive broadcaster of the CFL in Canada in 2008, has turned that property into one of the most valuable sport packages in the country rivaling even that of the powerful NHL.

The CFL on NBC Sports Network won't ever soar to those kinds of heights but, nonetheless, it does mark the biggest step the CFL has made into the U.S. market in decades and for that everyone in the CFL head office deserves a pat on the back.

The CFL on NBC Sports Network begins its coverage on Monday, August 27 with a clash between the Edmonton Eskimos and Toronto Argonauts in the final game of the league's Week 9.