As we noted this weekend, it seemed somewhat unusual that the Canadian Football League had just announced an official sportsbook partnership with FanDuel at a time while the league’s statistics were still having major issues. Through four full weeks of the season, the CFL’s statistics issues have not yet been fully solved; there has been some progress with live game stats, but individual player stats for this CFL season only remain available in league leader PDFs (only listing the top three players in each category). And that would seem to make betting and betting partnerships difficult.
But, as Steve McAllister notes in a piece at Gaming News Canada, there’s a lot of appeal and synergy for FanDuel in the CFL. In particular, they already have an overall deal with CFL broadcaster TSN. And that helps explain why they’d strike this deal even with the stats issues. And the quotes he got from FanDuel VP of Marketing Conor Murray help illustrate what the company is looking at here, and how they think this partnership could help out the broadcast side as well:
“The CFL has been brilliant at coming to the table, and understand this is an opportunity for the league,” Conor Murray, FanDuel’s VP of Marketing, told Gaming News Canada on Friday. “FanDuel is really proud to be the first (gaming partner for the league). This will elevate the betting experience for CFL fans and it’s a big one for us integrating with TSN broadcasts (of league games).”
…“We’ve seen [extended engagement with broadcasts due to betting] across a lot of our leagues,” said Murray. “Betting is a really, really strong engagement tool, and leagues have seen strong viewership trends. You get people engaged through the fourth quarter to see if a receiver will hit the over-under on receiving yards. It extends the entertainment factor.”
…“We’re going to build out our product with a focus on the players to increase their profile,” Murray told us. “We have same game parlays and future markets for players and the Grey Cup. We’ll lean into every game and hone in on that touchdown market to build stars.”
…“It’s a real opportunity to work with TSN and help them elevate the stars around the CFL,” he said. “That’s a big part of this partnership, integrating with the TSN broadcast.”
Of course, betting on the CFL has been a thing for a long time, both in Canada (mostly through provincial lottery offerings before recent expansions of that country’s gaming market, which is still mostly focused on Ontario on the private side) and south of the border. And this isn’t the first time the CFL has had an official sportsbook. In August 2021, shortly after federal legislation opened up Canadian sports betting, the league signed a multi-year deal with BetRegal t0 make that company “the Official Sport Gaming Partner of the CFL.” But BetRegal (which also has individual deals with two CFL teams, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Winnipeg Blue Bombers) still hasn’t launched in Ontario, and the CFL decided to part ways with them recently. That led to this deal with FanDuel, which looks like a better fit, especially with the TSN overlap.
It’s worth noting how unusually and closely tied the CFL and TSN are. TSN has broadcast the CFL since 1987, first in partnership with the CBC and then as the league’s exclusive broadcaster since 2008. Their current deal runs through 2025. And the revenue from the TSN deal (reportedly around $50 million Canadian, or $37.7 million U.S., annually under the most recent 2019 extension, possibly higher based on incentives) alone is more than enough to pay the league’s players alone (the nine-team league has a salary cap, set at $5.45 million CAD per team this year, so if every team spent to the cap, that would be $49.05 million).
The league also has other expenses, of course. And they have other sources of revenue, including tickets, concessions, merchandise, sponsorships, and a U.S. broadcast deal with CBS Sports Network for 34 games, with that deal reportedly worth around $1 million U.S. annually. But the TSN money has often been critical to keeping the lights on, especially during some of the CFL’s rougher patches. And the TSN broadcasts are the ones sent internationally, whether with CBSSN or the league’s own free (but, so far, mobile/tablet/computer only, not apped) U.S. and world CFL+ streaming service.
So this is a league and a broadcaster very much joined at the hip. And that seems to be a large part of why FanDuel is coming on board with the league following their deal with the broadcaster. And it’s interesting to hear Murray talk about “integrating with the TSN broadcast.” FanDuel’s partnerships with the closely-linked CFL and TSN do seem to present some notable opportunities with tangible broadcast impacts, and it will be worth watching to see how that plays out.