It appears that TSN has acquired the broadcast rights for Major League Soccer previously held by CBC and Rogers Sportsnet. The public broadcaster and Rogers have been carrying Toronto FC games and league championship matches since the team was formed in 2007, but sources tell Usual Suspects that the national package has now been purchased by CTV/ TSN. Included in the deal are rights to a weekly game featuring either Toronto or Vancouver and the MLS postseason.
Local rights to expansion franchises Vancouver (2011) and Montreal (2012) are separately negotiated. But the same sources say TSN has the inside track there, too.
TSN president Stewart Johnston told Usual Suspects in an email, "We have nothing to announce on [MLS rights]rdquo; at the moment. But TSN did announce Tuesday that it has acquired the 2012/2016 rights to the UEFA Euro Championship.
CBC spokesman Jeff Keay did not confirm the loss of MLS rights but told Usual Suspects, "We continue to discuss our soccer programming with stakeholders. We remain committed to soccer programming, of course."
While CBC made a competitive bid, sources say that MLS wants the profile it believes that TSN can deliver on its SportsCentre and other broadcasts. The league is said to be hoping TSN can give the same boost it did to the CFL from partnering with the sports specialty channel. CBC has virtually eliminated sports coverage from its news operation, meaning that it cannot offer wall-to-wall promotion on sportscasts anymore.
With renewal of CBC's NHL package very much in doubt for 2014, it was thought soccer was a fallback property for CBC. While it maintains possession of World Cup rights for men and women, losing the MLS property is a blow for CBC Sports as it seeks to replace departed vice-president Scott Moore, now at Rogers.