MLS moves to TVA Sports in Quebec, renews with TSN

TVA Group has now doubled its soccer content for the season, from 21 games to more than 50.

Some moves off the soccer pitch today with some broadcast rights for Major League Soccer games in Canada shifting hands. TVA Sports will become the new exclusive broadcaster of the Montreal Impact games in French, as well as the official broadcaster of MLS for the next five years.

Since 2012, the broadcast rights to the Impact have been split in French Canada. RDS held the national rights and TVA Sports hhad regional rights. Véronique Dubois, director of programming for TVA Sports, said the new exclusivity will create a more cohesive experience for viewers.

“There’s now only one outlet for fans,” Dubois told MiC. “Before, we had between 20 and 21 regular season games. Now, we will have more than double the amount of games, and we will cover the playoffs regardless of whether or not the Impact are in the playoffs — of course, we hope they are in the playoffs.”

On top of regular season and playoff games, TVA Sports will also broadcast the MLS All-Star Game, as well as the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs and the MLS Cup final. In total, TVA Sports will air more than 50 games per year, along with a weekly show on the Impact. Prior to the expanded partnership, TVA was airing between 20 and 21 games per season, according to Dubois.

All games and specials will also be available on TVA Sports’ two apps to authenticated subscribers.

Dubois said the “explosion in popularity” of soccer in recent years has led to soccer becoming the second-largest sport for the network besides hockey.

Last season, she said, regular season games on TVA Sports averaged just over 100,000 views for viewers 2+ at a 4.3 market share. She noted that there has been a major improvement in those views since it first attained the rights in 2012, when game views sat at around 30,000.

Linear broadcasts aren’t the only area in which soccer has risen in the ranks, said Dubois, who noted that from 2012 to year-end 2016, traffic to TVA Sports’ soccer section on the website has risen by about 400%, although she did not have the exact figures.

Vertically integrated communications company Videotron (also owned by TVA parent Quebecor) will also renew its partnership as the official communications partner of the Montreal Impact until 2021. Videotron was a founding partner of the Impact and Stade (stadium) Saputo in 2012.

MLS has also renewed its broadcast rights in English Canada. Bell Media-owned TSN announced Jan. 10 that it will extend its contract with MLS as the official English-language broadcaster of MLS.

As part of the renewed deal, TSN will deliver exclusive coverage of all games featuring both Toronto FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps, as well as a small slate of Montreal Impact match-ups. It will also remain the exclusive English home of the MLS All-Star game, MLS Decision Day, and the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs and Final.

The 2016 season of MLS on TSN was a record-breaking one for ratings, with the post-season success of Toronto FC leading to a series of all-time high audience levels for the league on the network. December’s MLS Cup was watched by an average audience of 1.4 million viewers on TSN.