TORONTO — Less than 10 weeks before kickoff, the Canadian Premier League has unveiled its media partner with ambitious plans to showcase soccer in Canada.
Spain-based Mediapro has struck a 10-year deal with Canada Soccer Business, which represents Canada's national teams as well as the fledgling CPL, which kicks off its inaugural season April 27.
A source said Mediapro is investing $200 million into the Canadian project over the lifetime of the deal. Scott Mitchell, CEO of Canadian Soccer Business, calls it "the single-largest commitment any company has ever made in terms of soccer in Canada."
The agreement gives Mediapro global and domestic media rights to the CPL, the Canadian Championship and rights for all home games of the Canadian men's and women's teams. It also includes rights to League 1 Ontario matches, a feeder league under the CPL umbrella.
CPL and Canada Soccer Business officials say the partnership will help grow soccer in Canada.
"It's easy to define our plan in one sentence — we want to build a home for Canadian soccer," said Oscar Lopez Garcia, CEO of Mediapro Canada.
Mediapro has already done that in Spain, successfully creating channels full of La Liga content. It plans to do the same in France with Ligue 1 starting in 2020 and sees Canada as a chance to get in on the ground floor with the new Canadian pro league about to kick off.
Seven years ago, Mediapro's La Liga channel in Spain had 1.8 million paid subscribers. Today, available in several ways, the channel has 4.7 million subscribers.
Its resume includes a Formula One channel for Latin America, which it operated for four to five years. Today it operates some 15 channels.
Mediapro's business includes producing soccer games around the world — it handled the Atletico Madrid-Juventus Champions League game Wednesday and has produced games at the FIFA World Cup.
That means the CPL has someone to handle its game production. Mediapro, which has some 70 production trucks worldwide, currently produces games in 16 different leagues.
The initial plan is to have all CPL games available via the league's app/soccer streaming channel, with some matches for free. Viewers will have to pay to get more.
But Mediapro is open to anything, looking for partners on any platform. Mitchell says there has been a "serious appetite" from Canadian domestic partners.
Canada's sports channels have been losing soccer properties to DAZN, a deep-pocketed sports streaming service, in recent months.
Mediapro says aside from broadcasting, it wants to help "develop the sport further in many different angles which we can bring to the table."
That includes everything from producing content to consulting with the league on kickoff times and technical issues.
CPL commissioner David Clanachan says the partnership will offer far more than game content.
"It's that human interest, that story-telling that happens around the game," he said. "That's what supporters want to see today."
North American major-league teams, from baseball to hockey, create that kind of content themselves. The CPL will look to Mediapro for it.
Mediapro will also produce all Canadian national team games that fall under Canada Soccer Business jurisdiction.
Mitchell said there was no shortage of media suitors who wanted to deliver the content directly to consumers — as DAZN, another new entry to the Canadian market does. Mediapro got the nod because of its "willingness and ambition and understanding of the need for as wide as distribution as possible."
The seven-team CPL consists of Victoria's Pacific FC, FC Edmonton, Calgary's Cavalry FC, Winnipeg's Valour FC, Hamilton's Forge FC, north Toronto's York 9 FC and HFX Halifax's Wanderers.
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