XFL/CFL Merger Worth as Much as $100M According to Media Rights Expert

XFL/CFL Merger Worth as Much as $100M According to Media Rights Expert

A Canadian Football League merger with the XFL could be worth $100 million US annually in American media rights.

That’s according to Daniel Cohen, the New York-based senior vice-president of global media rights consulting for Octagon, a recognized industry leader in sports and entertainment marketing. Cohen and Octagon consult with sports leagues and federations, individual teams, broadcasters, digital media platforms, venture capitalists and financial institutions.

Cohen is bullish on a merger for reasons including the value of scaling up in league size, accessing international markets, boosting the talent level on the field and increasing broadcast production values with XFL-style pizzazz and pageantry.

If you had the same Canadian markets and the same U.S. markets, and you’re talking about a pretty big league now at that point — you might have to consolidate some of these markets — but if you’re talking about a property that can touch let’s say 30 of the top 60 (designated market areas) across Canada and the U.S., I think you could easily go to market and be asking for $100 million U.S. a year.”

The CFL’s current deal with TSN pays the league about $50 million CAD per year. For five weeks in 2020, XFL games were seen on ESPN, FOX and ABC, though no upfront rights fees were paid to the league.

The CFL incorporates major markets in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, while in 2020 the XFL had teams in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, St. Louis, Seattle, Washington, D.C. and Tampa.

When you do consolidate, you scale, and when you scale you drive greater demand for your rights, be it media rights or sponsorship,” said Cohen. “I think one of the interesting things in a combined XFL/CFL merge is now, if you’re a brand or a media partner and you’ve got an interest in accessing Canada, or you’re a Canadian brand and you have interest in accessing the U.S., now it opens up two countries. The NFL can’t currently do that. They still haven’t moved the (Buffalo) Bills to Toronto, right?”

I think from a geographic perspective, a scale perspective, (it’s a) very much differentiated offering to a bi-national or multi-national brand or broadcaster. ESPN and their partnership with TSN gets a lot more creative. Amazon and other global streamers say I can grab another 30 million potential fans up in Canada. That’s interesting.”

For years the CFL has tried to find a way into the U.S. from a revenue perspective and it’s not gotten there. This could be the pathway there.”

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the shutdown of the second incarnation of the XFL last spring after teams played five of 10 regular season games, while the CFL’s 2020 campaign never got off the ground. It has been reported CFL teams combined to lose at least $60 million CAD last year, while commissioner Randy Ambrosie told a government committee the league routinely loses $10- to $20-million annually.

The current XFL ownership — Dany Garcia, Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson and Gerry Cardinale of RedBird Capital — purchased the league out of bankruptcy for $15 million U.S. and had been focused on a 2022 debut prior to announcing their ongoing talks with the CFL. At that point, they put a pause on preparations for 2022 and it has been rumoured the XFL won’t hit the field until 2023.

The CFL is in the process of negotiating with the CFL Players Association for a return to play this summer.

Cohen said he sees tremendous marketing value in the presence of The Rock.

Oh yeah, 100 per cent, especially for the next gen fan. What we’re finding across fandom globally, and I think social media has a lot to do with this, is that celebrity drives attention, attention drives spend. And the Rock is, if not the biggest celebrity in the world, one of the top five.”

You want to make sure you find the right balance … so this isn’t The Rock’s show because you want to focus on the quality of the sport and the authenticity of the sport and the players on the field. But I absolutely think that there is a storytelling element there where The Rock could certainly be intertwined to immediately raise the awareness of the league and drive immediate attention to the league.”

Cohen also sees rights value in partnerships the CFL has forged with leagues and federations in Mexico, Japan, Brazil and other countries.

What I like about the alliances they’re forming and I’m hoping this is heading in that direction, is that this XFL/CFL league will start to pull in players from Mexico, football players from Japan, and that is going to say to TV Asahi and NHK, this is interesting, I want to broadcast in Japan one CFL game a week because players X, Y and Z are playing in the league. … The leagues that are most successful internationally tend to have players from all parts of the world and that’s the model the XFL and CFL should follow.”


This article originally appeared on The Toronto Sun.