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Canadian Soccer Business, Mediapro settle lawsuit, agree to part ways at end of year

Canadian Soccer Business and Mediapro have settled their legal differences with an agreement that will see the two parties go their separate ways at the end of the year. The Canadian Premier League logo is seen on a game ball at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ont., Tuesday, May 9, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nick Iwanyshyn

TORONTO — Canadian Soccer Business and Mediapro have settled their legal differences with an agreement that will see the two parties go their separate ways at the end of the year.

Previously CSB and Mediapro were partners in broadcasting the Canadian Premier League and Canadian national team games via OneSoccer. Under the settlement, Mediapro will just "provide production and technical services" for OneSoccer through the end of the year.

Their differences became public in January with CSB and Mediapro going to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice to extricate themselves from the 10-year agreement struck in 2019, each saying the other failed to live up to the deal. And both wanted the other to pay for it.

On one side was Canadian Soccer Business, whose investor group and board includes the Canadian Premier League owners. CSB looks after marketing and broadcast rights for both the CPL, now in its sixth season, and Canada Soccer.

On the other was Mediapro, CSB's Barcelona-based media partner — a global entity that produces content for soccer leagues worldwide including OneSoccer, a streaming service with a limited linear TV presence.

No details of the settlement were released other than Mediapro has transferred "all OneSoccer online service, intellectual property and all associated rights to Timeless, Inc." which owns OneSoccer.

“We are pleased to have reached this agreement with Mediapro in the best interest of soccer in Canada,” said Mark Noonan, who doubles as CSB CEO and CPL commissioner. “With the 2026 FIFA World Cup less than two years away, this settlement will allow us to continue delivering the best Canadian soccer content to fans from coast to coast as we build toward the biggest sporting event on the planet.”

Timeless is owned by Scott Mitchell, chairman of the CPL and CSB.

"We appreciate what Mediapro has done to bring the OneSoccer service to life for the benefit of Canadian soccer fans and are excited to acquire this valuable asset," Mitchell said in a statement. "We intend to take what Mediapro started and continue building OneSoccer into the premier destination for lovers of the beautiful game throughout Canada.”

There was no immediate word on who will produce the Canadian soccer content after Mediapro departs at the end of the year.

“By creating the OneSoccer ecosystem, Mediapro has given soccer fans a home in Canada and in doing so, we have shown our full commitment to developing the game in a territory where soccer was, and still is, in dire need of recognition," Mediapro Canada CEO Martijn Bakx said in a statement. "We are confident that Timeless and CSB will continue to build on these strong foundations and remain committed to growing the sport in all corners of the world”.

In a five-page notice of action in January, CSB alleged Mediapro had reneged on its payments and "improperly repudiated" their agreement covering media rights and production, broadcast and distribution.

The CSB, meanwhile, said it had taken back its rights from Mediapro and was looking for other broadcast partners.

CSB alleged Mediapro did not meet its requirements, including failing to deliver on a sub-licensing arrangement for linear television broadcasting that would expose its content to a greater audience via cable.

In a separate 32-page statement of claim, Mediapro alleged CSB had not lived up to its promises, saying that halfway through the agreement CSB has delivered just over a quarter of the number of required matches (a guaranteed minimum of 2,042 CPL and Canadian Championship games by 2028).

Mediapro also said the eight-team league had failed to deliver on promises to expand to 10 teams by 2020 and 16 teams by 2024.

Mediapro wanted damages of at least $50 million, court costs and a declaration that it was within its right to terminate the deal.

The legal action provided details of the CSB-Mediapro partnership with Mediapro to pay CSB an annual licensing fee ranging from $5 million in 2019 to $14 million in 2028, according to Mediapro.

CSB and Mediapro agreed to share sponsorship revenue from commercial inventory 50/50, with CSB providing annual minimum guaranteed payments for the first three years of the deal ($1 million in 2019, $2 million in 2020 and $3 million in 2021).

A settlement was expected after CPL and Canadian team broadcast content continued this year despite the lawsuits.


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This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 18, 2024

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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