The day before the 2010 CFL season kicked off, the CFL announced that they had reached an agreement with NFL Network to broadcast 14 CFL regular-season games in 2010.
CFL Commissioner Mark Cohon is jubilant about the partnership. He says that reaction to the two games aired so far (Montreal-Saskatchewan in Week 1, Calgary-Hamilton in Week 2) has been mostly positive.
I think it is a great thing for our great league to get some exposure south of the border. Whether we fans want to admit it or not, the CFL does not get much respect among many football fans. People see the NFL as the be all and end all, and with the added exposure that NFL Network gives, my hope is that the players in the CFL will finally be given their due.
Also, this shows that there is some demand in the United States for Canada's brand of football. The CFL is an exciting game, with great athletes and great games. Just look at the Canada Day game between the Als and Riders. Any league would have been happy to have a game like that. Tell me of a game in the NFL, CFL or NCAA in the past five years that was more exciting than that game.
I have been thinking of reasons why NFL Network would look to acquire any CFL television rights. Unless you've been living under a rock, you are well aware that the NFL is facing its most divisive labour negotiations in a generation. There is the very real possibility that the NFL will go on a year-long lockout starting in 2011. While any fan knows that this could be suicide, it could still occur. How might this affect the CFL, you ask? Well, perhaps NFL Network took CFL games in 2010 hoping to foster friendly relations with the league so that the CFL would agree to broadcast more or all of their games on the network in 2011 when they are looking for content. Could NFL Network become the US-based broadcaster for every CFL game in 2011? The idea might seem ludicrous now, but without the NFL playing games, their network will be looking for something to broadcast. This could be the biggest boon to the CFL in years, and could help establish the league in the United States on a more permanent basis.
I'm not saying the above scenario is going to happen, but it's a possibility. I personally believe that cooler heads will prevail and the NFL and NFLPA will come to an agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Too much can be lost from a prolonged work stoppage. However, the NFL's loss could be the CFL's gain.
The CFL on NFL Network could be the start of something special for the CFL.