CSB's move leaves OneSoccer without its core Canadian content.
CSB alleges that Mediapro “failed to meet significant contractual obligations, including defaulting on the majority of rights fees due for 2023 and failing to secure broader audiences for the Canadian national teams, the Canadian Championship and the Canadian Premier League.”
“Our decision to pursue legal action was not one we made lightly, but we felt it was necessary to protect the tremendous investments we have made to build the game in Canada,” CSB said in a statement. “By regaining full control of our rights, we will immediately have the opportunity to do so with new partners who have the ability to reach larger audiences.”
The Civil Service Commission declined further comment beyond the one-paragraph statement. But the money in dispute is believed to run into the millions.
A Mediapro Canada official declined to comment or provide his name when reached by phone in Mississauga.
Clearly, CSB's hope is that the separation from Mediapro will result in a more satisfactory media partner and getting its product to more viewers.
OneSoccer has had difficulty convincing cable providers to open their doors to its service, even though the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission ruled last March that Rogers Communications gave preferential treatment for its Sportsnet service over OneSoccer.
The inability to offer its properties on major streaming outlets, other than Telus, is believed to be part of CSB's dispute with Mediapro.
While the CSB limited its comments to Thursday's statement, it seems unlikely it would take such a drastic step if it wasn't confident it could find an alternative media partner, given that the Canadian women will participate next month in the CONCACAF W Gold Cup, a Canadian one. The men will play Copa America qualifiers on March 23, and the sixth season of the Premier League will begin on April 13.
The CPL unveiled Mediapro as its media partner in February 2019, less than three months before the start of its inaugural season. The partnership with Canadian Soccer Business was announced as a 10-year deal.
At the time, a source said Mediapro was investing $200 million in the Canadian project for the duration of the deal. Scott Mitchell, CEO of Canadian Soccer Business, called this “the single largest commitment any company has ever made to soccer in Canada.”
The agreement gives Mediapro global and domestic media rights to the CPL, the Canadian Championship and the Canadian men's and women's teams. It also includes rights to League 1 Ontario matches, a feeder league under the CPL umbrella.
“Our plan is easy to define in one sentence — we want to build a home for Canadian soccer,” Oscar Lopez-Garcia, then CEO of Mediapro Canada, said in 2019.
The deal means CPL has someone handling the production of its game. At the time the deal was announced, Mediapro said it had about 70 production trucks worldwide and was producing games in 16 different leagues.
Mediapro also produced all Canadian national team games that fall under the jurisdiction of Canadian Soccer Business.
The company has been in a state of flux lately.
Mediapro refinanced its debt in 2022, giving its majority shareholder, Hong Kong-based Southwind Group, more control. Mediapro co-founder Jaume Roris left the company in October, and there were reports around that time that Southwind was looking to sell its 80 percent stake in Mediapro.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2024.
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press