When it comes to soccer media rights in the United States, over the last decade there have been three key players: ESPN/ABC, FOX, and NBC. More recently, Turner (shockingly) stepped into the foray back in February 2017 when they tackled the UEFA Champions League media rights from FOX.
Now, an even bigger shock has happened.
CBS, best known for NFL Sundays, March Madness, SEC college football, and The Masters, will be the English-language media rights holder from 2021-2024. As part of the overall media rights package, Univision maintained the Spanish-language Champions League rights for the second straight cycle.
The pair paid a reported $150 million per season, a significant 50% increase from what Turner and Univision paid for the rights from 2018-2021.
The last major soccer property CBS broadcast was the 1974 World Cup. They also broadcast NASL back in its heyday from 1967-1976, while CBS Sports Network had 12 NASL matches in 2016. It’s safe to say that a LOT has changed since 1974 in the world of media rights.
Over-the-top (OTT) Platform a Priority
Turner’s coverage has been primarily via the B/R Live app, with a single match per window appearing on TNT. Fans have the option of purchasing single matches ($2.99), a monthly subscription ($9.99), or an annual subscription ($79.99) specifically for Champions League action. That didn’t include any additional content offered by the platform, including, most notably, NBA games.
CBS will also be placing a large emphasis on their OTT offering, CBS All Access. The OTT platform currently has 8 million subscribers, and if European soccer fans in the United States aren’t currently subscribed, you bet they will be ahead of fall 2021.
Games will also appear on the cable channel CBS Sports Network and the primary CBS broadcast channel. While it’s too early to tell just how many games per season will appear on the free, over-the-air channel, it’s a safe bet that at least the Champions League Final will appear on CBS.
Who Will Call the Matches?
With no recent history of soccer coverage, fans will be looking to see who CBS will bring in for both studio and match coverage. When Turner won the rights from FOX, Kate Abdo and Stuart Holden followed.
Many fans and media outlets have been critical of multiple aspects of Turner’s coverage, a lot of which is focused around former NBA player Steve Nash. It will be interesting to see if any of the current Champions League talent goes from Turner to CBS. Hopefully CBS executives are paying attention to fan feedback to the current set-up.
It will definitely be a story to follow over the coming year. CBS came out of nowhere to win the rights, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they have one or two additional surprises up their sleeve when it comes to talent.