The CFL will have games, including the Grey Cup, on NBC Sports Network this year.There's been a lot of discussion about when and if the CFL would land a U.S. television deal following the parting of ways with the NFL Network, but after a few months of little news on that front, an agreement has finally been reached with NBC Sports Network. When the details are examined, it seems the deal was worth the wait. Getting anywhere on television in the U.S. is positive for the CFL, as in addition to drawing and keeping American fans, television broadcasts give the league south-of-the-border publicity that can play a huge role in player recruitment; they can also help keep current players happy and in contact with their friends and families in the States. Landing on NBC Sports Network is even better, though, as it's arguably the most successful multi-sport channel outside of the ESPN family, and the exact setup of this deal (which includes broadcasts of the playoffs and the Grey Cup, something that had been difficult to obtain in the past) has a lot of elements that will boost the CFL further.
Having the Grey Cup shown live on a reasonably-prominent network (one that also broadcasts the NHL and MLS, amongst other things) is huge for the CFL. It's the league's biggest event and biggest selling point, and it's something a lot of American viewers have asked about in recent years, but the last few seasons have seen the CFL limited either to networks with a smaller reach or to internet-only coverage (NFL Network's CFL deal didn't extend to the Grey Cup). This changes all that, and could be a big step for the CFL in establishing its brand further south of the border. (It might have helped that this year's Grey Cup's the 100th one and will be held in Toronto with a huge celebration around it; that could make it more compelling to American TV.) Again, the critical element here for the league isn't how many viewers it pulls in (although strong viewership would certainly help them maintain a good U.S. TV deal in the coming seasons), but rather how many potential future CFL players are watching. With big games like the Grey Cup available on a network many have access to, the CFL could show off its product to lots of potential future players and get them intrigued by the idea of playing north of the border.
The strong points in this agreement go beyond just the Grey Cup, though. For one thing, according to the CFL's release, all games will continue to be available on the web service ESPN 3; that's a positive for those who have already become used to watching that way, whether on a computer or through a game console. For another, NBCSN may only be televising 14 games and not starting until the end of August, but they've picked solid games and good times; it looks like all their regular-season broadcasts and some of the playoff ones will be live, and they're avoiding Saturdays and Sundays until the playoffs, so CFL games won't be going head-to-head with college football or the NFL. What's most important is that the CFL's landed an impressive broadcast deal with a reasonably-significant network, though; U.S. TV broadcasts of CFL games have proven to be a tremendous resource for the league, so it's nice to have them back.