Tue Jun 21 02:38pm EDT
Back in March, I wrote that the ongoing NFL labour dispute could provide expanded U.S. television opportunities for the CFL, and one logical channel to pursue those was the NFL Network, which generally showed one CFL game per week last season. Months later and only just over a week before the CFL season's set to start, an expanded NFL Network deal has finally come through, with the CFL announcing Tuesday that two games per week will be shown south of the border on NFLN this year. That's a big break for the CFL, but it could also prove advantageous for NFLN.
From the CFL's perspective, there's plenty to be gained from this deal. There's undoubtedly some money involved, but the larger goal may be having their product visible to fans south of the border. There are still a good number of Americans interested in the league, and the ongoing uncertainty over if there will be a 2011-12 NFL season may motivate even more American viewers to check out the CFL's product. NFLN has a reasonably wide reach and a demographic of primarily hardcore football fans, which makes considerable sense for the CFL to target. Moreover, as the league found last year, having their product on NFLN also serves as a way for players' friends and families to see their games, and it can be an excellent recruitment tool to attract prospective players as well.
However, this could work out very well for the NFL Network as well. If the NFL lockout carries over into the start of their season, all of a sudden they'll be quite short of programming; much of the network's content is highlights, analysis and news, and there isn't going to be a lot on any of those fronts without a NFL season. They'll still have documentaries, player rankings and such, but live football content is a nice break from that, and that can be particularly advantageous when there isn't much else available in the way of pro football. Also, the costs on their end are minimal, as they're just picking up TSN's feed (created in production trucks like the one above).
The NFL Network schedule for the first five weeks has been released, with more games to follow later. The network will carry the league's season opener live on June 30, with the B.C. Lions heading to Montreal to face the Grey Cup champion Alouettes at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. Their next broadcast is July 2 at 8 p.m. Eastern, and will be tape-delayed coverage of the July 1 Toronto Argonauts - Calgary Stampeders game. The next four weeks all feature two live games, including Saturday doubleheaders on July 9 and July 16. This could be an excellent chance for American viewers to get some actual football in between lockout news. For the full schedule so far, scroll down to the bottom of this release.
(Note: This post originally had the first game as July 30. It's June 30. H/T to @3DownNews for spotting the typo.)