Mediapro to launch OTT in Canada armed with global rights to new CPL
By Jonathan Rest
Mediapro, the Spanish sports rights agency, yesterday announced its launch into Canada, armed with a 10-year exclusive global rights deal to the Canadian Premier League, a professional men’s soccer league launching in the country in April.
The agreement covers the CPL, the Canadian Championship, which this year expands to 13 teams competing for the right to play in the Scotiabank Concacaf Champions League, all home games of the men’s and women’s national team and the regional League1 Ontario.
The comprehensive rights deal was described to Sportcal by a source close to the negotiations as the “biggest commitment ever made in Canadian soccer.”
Around 80 global organisations responded to the invitation to tender sent out in late August by ThePostGame, a USA-based digital content agency that was appointed last year to sell the global media rights to the CPL on behalf of Canadian Soccer Business, the body that represents the commercial interests of the new league and Canada Soccer, the national association.
Sportcal understands that Mediapro fought off the likes of DAZN, the international OTT platform that launched in Canada in 2017, USA-based FloSports and Bell, the Canadian media giant that owns subscription broadcaster TSN, to land the rights.
IMG was also interested in the contract in the early stages.
As part of the agreement, Mediapro will be in charge of the production of all matches and will launch an over-the-top channel to stream games from all competitions, as well as 'shoulder' programming including magazine shows and documentaries.
Mediapro is yet to decide the pricing for its Canadian soccer OTT offering, which will be available globally. By comparison, DAZN charges customers C$20 ($15) per month in Canada.
While the bulk of CPL matches will be streamed in Canada, Mediapro will make national team and a handful of CPL games available to other media organisations in the country.
Oliver Seibert, director of media and new business, told Sportcal: “We will create a league channel that in the first instance is direct to consumer, so OTT. We will replicate what we have been doing in other markets. We are open to offering this channel to all different types of media distributors and platforms. It could be Amazon, Facebook or linear channels.
“We are already starting these discussions.
“For the national team matches and some CPL games, there will be some sub-licensing deals. It won’t be exclusive to one media group.”
As many as 20 games per year could be made available on a free-to-air basis in Canada, Sportcal understands.
Scott Mitchell, chief executive of CSB (pictured, right) said: “The big differentiator with Mediapro was their transparency with us. They need us to help them understand the domestic market. They are a newcomer to Canada, but they are willing to partner with any number of media partners domestically to grow the game. This is not about exclusivity.”
While Mediapro has the rights to exploit globally, the immediate focus is on producing a high level of content locally.
Oscar Lopez Garcia, chief executive of the new Mediapro Canada operation (pictured, left), said: “The focus right now is on the local market and developing a channel for Canadians in Canada. I’m sure there will be interest across North and South America in the near future.”
David Clanachan, CPL commissioner, added: “We are very focused on the game here in Canada to begin with. But we do expect there to be lots of interest from Canadian expats in what is happening here. We are also getting some serious interest from players across the globe interested in coming here to play in the CPL, so that naturally will increase interest in their home market.”
Mediapro already has over 50 offices on four continents, but this is its first venture into Canada.
Jaume Roures, Mediapro’s co-founder, told Sportcal it was an opportune time to break into the market.
He said: “At Mediapro we have soccer in our DNA. A 10-year agreement is a good enough time to develop the league. Canada is one of the 10 largest countries in the world and they do not have a renowned soccer league. We are going to create this from the beginning and we are bringing our experience. It is an extraordinary partnership with CSB.”
Asked whether there was any risk attached with handing all rights over to a new market entrant, Mitchell said: “There were a number of different interested parties, but none of them could the bring this level of experience to the partnership for the Canadian market. It is an opportunity to grow the game in Canada and take it to a very prominent position in global soccer, and certainly within Concacaf.”
Clanachan added: “We believe we are partnering with the best globally. Their CV speaks for itself. We really believe this will be a generational step for soccer in the country.”
Speaking about the tender process, an executive from ThePostGame told Sportcal: “The demand for these rights was even greater than we anticipated and that’s certainly a representation of the uniqueness of this opportunity - the launch of a new top-tier soccer league in one of the world’s most influential countries, bundled with the highly regarded Canadian national team rights and in the wake of the announcement that Canada will be a co-host for the 2026 World Cup.
“With its OTT offering and global presence in soccer, Mediapro brings to the table exactly what we set out to achieve in a partnership for CSB, in terms of unparalleled production quality and digital media expertise, bringing a best-in-class product to Canadian soccer fans.”
Seven inaugural CPL teams have already been named: HFX Wanderers FC (Halifax); York 9 FC (Greater Toronto); Forge FC (Hamilton); Valour FC (Winnipeg); Cavalry FC (Calgary); FC Edmonton; and Pacific FC (Vancouver Island).
They will all wear Macron kit, after the Italy-based sportswear brand landed a long-term centralised apparel deal in September.
The CPL has ambitious plans expand to 24 clubs by 2026.