Braley explores TV blackouts as part of Argonaut business strategy
April 30, 2010
David Braley, owner of both the BC Lions and the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League, is said to be considering deploying blackouts – which the Argos have not even considered using since 2002 -- for two home games this season at the Rogers Centre.
Braley is old school on the issue of television blackouts. He is on record in supporting the use of blackouts to generate ticket sales and has used them throughout his tenure as owner of the BC Lions, who will this year play their home games at a temporary facility at Empire Fields while BC Place proceeds with renovations and the installation of a retractable roof for the 2011 Grey Cup.
The CFL allows up to two local blackouts each season, so seven of nine regular season home games would continue to be made available in the Toronto market.
Argonauts President and CEO Bob Nicholson told Chris Zelkovich of the Toronto Star that no decisions have been made, but did not deny the club was looking into the matter of television blackouts.
“We have had discussions around it and I know it’s a formula David feels has worked,” Nicholson said. “But at this point there’s not been any decision on what we’re doing.
The last time blackouts were considered in Toronto was in 2002, when then-owner Sherwood Schwarz placated fan and sponsor complaints by lifting a planned blackout.
Zelkovich noted that former owners David Cynamon and Howard Sokolowski televised all games based on the notion it was the best way to promote the Argos in Toronto and the CFL brand of football in general.
It is assumed Braley would push for two local blackouts in both Vancouver and Toronto to be consistent in his ownership of CFL clubs in the country’s two largest English-language television markets.
Records of 3-15 in 2009 and 4-14 in 2008 have eroded the Argonauts’ season ticket base to somewhere in the neighbourhood of 10,000 to 12,000, down from 14,000 three years ago. That is approximately half of the season ticket base for the BC Lions.
Many sport business commentators, including Tom Mayenknecht of TheSportMarket.biz, are skeptical about the use of television blackouts, especially in properties such as the Canadian Football League. It is true there is evidence of short-term impact on individual game sales but very little to demonstrate that it increases the most important category of sales: season tickets.
Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun and TSN’s “The Reporters” said: “I happened to live through the CFL age of television blackouts that almost killed the Argos and lost a generation of football fans in Southern Ontario. The barely alive Argonauts can't benefit now from turning off the only real audience they have. It's bad enough that Braley is allowed to operate two CFL franchises, but it's worse if he can't remember the damage done to the Argos the last time this policy was alive and not well in Southern Ontario.”
www.TheSportMarket.biz with files from Chris Zelkovich of the Toronto Star and Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun.