According to Vice Sports, the Canadian Football League will be streaming every CFL football game, including the Grey Cup, the championship game, live on YouTube for free. The news comes from a person familiar with the league’s plans.
Worldwide fans of Canada’s unique brand of football, including all the Canadian expats around the world, will be thrilled by the news. While the NFL has been forging ahead, growing its game on a worldwide basis, making the game available to viewers from Beijing to Berlin, the CFL has been strangely stagnant. This decision to stream the games live on YouTube is a sign that the league has woken up, realizing that it needs to expand its reach beyond North America and the best way to do that is digitally.
It is believed to be the first time a professional sports league in North America has made its entire playoff product available for free online on the popular video-streaming site.
According to a league source, the games will be available online in more than 100 countries, in addition to being broadcast live on TV in Canada and the United States. The league is expected to make an announcement soon.
It’s a sign that the CFL has now come to realize that there is a huge potential global audience for their product. The impetus though may well have come from the NFL.
Yahoo recently live streamed the NFL game between the Jaguars and Bills from Wembley Stadium in London, England. The broadcast was deemed a major success and apparently drew upwards of 15 million viewers.
Leagues such as Major League Baseball and the NBA have fully committed to the online demographic and provide live, nightly coverage of their games, but the packages aren’t offered free of charge.
As consumers cut back on their TV consumption, opting instead for more flexible and cheaper digital alternatives, major football leagues around the world such as Japan’s X League of American football, are tailoring their broadcasts to suit the new era of viewing sports. Fans can now view the biggest games of the season on computers, smartphones and tablets and there is no better way to bring the CFL playoffs into more homes than ever before and tap into the international market. A market that knows virtually nothing about the Canadian game.
Targeting a global audience through live streams is part of a greater plan by the CFL. The league is highly popular in certain regions of Canada but in order build its brand, popularity and promote fan engagement this is a major step.
The league will also make a concerted effort to increase its presence on social media. A massive Grey Cup sign situated in Winnipeg, Manitoba, will change colors depending on certain hashtags that users tweet. Any user in the world will be able to change the colors of the sign in real time by tweeting #GreyCup or #CoupeGrey, in addition to team-specific hashtags.
The Canadian Football League playoffs start Nov. 15 and the 103rd Grey Cup game will take place Nov. 29 in Winnipeg, one of the top thriving markets in the CFL.