A&E takes equity stake in NWSL, weekly matches on Lifetime

Dan Lauletta February 2, 2017 121
A + E Networks are taking an equity stake in NWSL and will air a game of the week every Saturday on Lifetime (graphic by NWSL)

A + E Networks are taking an equity stake in NWSL and will air a game of the week every Saturday on Lifetime (graphic by NWSL)

NWSL will have weekly matches aired on Lifetime each Saturday over the next three years as part of a landmark agreement with A+E Networks that will see the media giant take an equity stake in the league. Lifetime will now be an official sponsor and broadcast partner of NWSL. Additionally, NWSL and A+E Networks have joined to create NWSL Media which will serve as the league’s media and commercial arm, overseeing all global broadcast and sponsorship rights.

“This is a transformational partnership in the evolution of the league, and we are so appreciative of Nancy Dubuc (President and CEO, A+E Networks) and her team at A+E Networks as they take a leadership position in the growth of our league and create opportunities for young women,” NWSL Commissioner Jeff Plush said. “We are also extremely pleased to be able to present our fans with the most comprehensive national television and streaming packages in our history.”

The agreement, which runs through 2019, calls for an NWSL Game of the Week on Lifetime to be aired every Saturday at 4 p.m. ET. Matches will be preceded by a 30-minute pregame show. All players will have a Lifetime patch on the right sleeve of their club jerseys.

“As a former college athlete, I know the importance of sports in the lives of women and girls and I couldn’t be more thrilled to join forces with NWSL and U.S. Soccer to ensure professional women athletes are elevated as the entire country can watch and be inspired by their strength and athleticism,” Dubuc said. “The teams are filled with some of the best professional players in the world, and we are proud to welcome them to Lifetime.”

The newly formed NWSL Media will oversee live streaming of all NWSL matches which, according to Wednesday’s release, will be broadcast, “in high definition with a consistent, state-of-the-art approach that will include exclusive new and original digital content for pre-game, halftime and post-game segments.” Negotiations are underway for a partner to distribute matches not aired on Lifetime. It was not immediately clear if YouTube, which free streamed most matches over NWSL’s first four seasons, is still on the table. An NWSL app for iOS and Android is also in the works as is a full redesign of the league’s website, nwslsoccer.com

The new arrangement pulls NWSL away from the more traditional FOX and ESPN, which have aired select matches during the last four seasons. It does, however, offer more intense programming, a financial partner and a chance for appointment viewing every Saturday.

U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, widely hailed as the brains behind the formation of NWSL replete with investment from U.S. Soccer and the federations of Canada and Mexico, spoke glowingly about the deal.

“This partnership is not only tremendously significant in the continued growth of the NWSL, but representative of how far the league has come in four years and where it can go in the future,” Gulati said. “A+E and its resources are a fantastic fit for women’s professional soccer and will have a major impact on continuing to raise the profile of what we feel is already the best and most competitive league in the world.”

  • ughhhhh

    It hurts my soul a bit that the NWSL is going to be on Lifetime. Trying to get some respect for female athletes, certainly not going to be helped by airing games on the weepy movie channel.

    • Calci0

      If the production of each game is stepped up, I don’t really mind what channel it’s on…..

  • Bruce

    Equity stake? Just wow.

    • g2

      interesting to note, Gulati said in press conference that as part of the NWSL A+E deal USSF soccer also had to put its commitment to NWSL into writing. Gulati has stated before that USSF was committed to NWSL for long haul, but now commitment is in writing (at least for 3 years of A+E deal).

      • Steglitz49

        3 years takes the NWSL to after WC-19 but if interpreted literally before OG-20.

    • An infusion of cash is a good thing, though. Anything to legitimize the league, and being able to pay players more is key. Maybe the league minimum being raised was due in part to this deal.

      • Steglitz49

        Indeed.

  • Steglitz49

    A female CEO taking action.

    Maybe a few more can join in the fray and create a feeding-frenzy.

  • #1Fan

    Does putting the NWSL on a channel primarily aimed at women put the Equal pay thing in perspective?

  • JD

    This is great financially. Although I wish some games were also on A&E. I hope being on Lifetime doesn’t alienate children and males, as the channel is associated with tv shows and movies geared to women. Hopefully it works though and the league continues to grow.

    • Som Termanni

      How great was it financially? Do tell. I didn’t hear one penny about the terms. Considering Lifetime’s getting an equity stake in the league we don’t even know if there _were_ terms.

      Would’ve been a great time to announce the new salary cap! The new salary ceiling! New benefits for players! That amateurs will no longer go unpaid! Too bad we didn’t hear jack about any of that.

    • GT

      I think the existing NWSL fan will find the games. Maybe on this channel it will “expose/bring in” people (mostly women I would suspect) into the fold. Maybe an adjunct will be an NWSL/WoSo talk show. I know I’m dreaming. Clearly what they have been doing up until now hasn’t resulted in significant growth.

      • I don’t see us gaining many viewers this way. If it were on a sports network you would get more eyeballs (especially male eyeballs) on the sport from people flipping channels. Many men keep the TV permanently tuned to ESPN. But how many women who watch Lifetime are also interested in sports?

        The only thing this really helps with is when people ask me where they can watch the games I now have an answer for them, because very few people were willing to watch them on YouTube, but they will watch on a dedicated TV channel.

        It’s sort of like a retail store that is only online (YouTube), one that’s in a shopping mall (ESPN, FOX), or one that is isolated and doesn’t get any foot traffic (Lifetime). I mean, it’s better than nothing, but not exactly what we’ve been hoping for.

    • GT

      If it doesn’t work out, they can always put the games on the “History Channel”.

      • Movement

        Or on the Viceland channel.
        Just look at their website, click here:
        https://www.viceland.com/en_us

        • My brother-in-law watches this all the time. I can’t stand it. That dude that travels the world researching ways to get high annoys the bejeezus out of me.

    • Bruce

      Throughout the press conference both sides really stressed how they viewed WoSo as an opportunity for “women-focused content”. That they were actually talking about sports programming seemed to be a secondary consideration.

      I know I’m not in the demographic they are looking to reach here. Worried that they are going down a road that has never before proven to be successful.

      • I think the NWSL logo sealed the deal.

        They don’t seem to listen when we say that women’s sports shouldn’t JUST appeal to women and girls and that the #1 selling jersey isn’t going to be pink.

        • Steglitz49

          Define your market, segment it and analyze it. Then grow it where it is easiest.

          Remember that 4% of 95% is more than 70% of 5%.

    • mockmook

      I don’t think I have ever NOT watched a show I wanted to see because of what channel it was on.

      • Yes, but you have to want to see it. No “foot traffic” here. People who turn on the TV and browse through the sports listings are probably not going to find these broadcasts.

        • mockmook

          When I search for Sports, it shows all the channels with sports on, not just on “Sports” channels.

  • wosofan

    These games are going to get awful ratings. I hope this relationship doesn’t sour quickly.

    • Steglitz49

      As long as people go along to the stadiums and watch, what is the beef? Grow the business or perish.

    • CED

      LOL…You act like NWSL ratings were ever good.

      • USMNTfan4life

        People will really have to be dedicated WoSo fans to search for Lifetime / A+E on their cable boxes. I doubt the WoSo fans are that dedicated, especially the casual fans. We shall see how it works out.

    • USMNTfan4life

      People will really have to be dedicated WoSo fans to search for Lifetime / A+E on their cable boxes. I doubt the WoSo fans are that dedicated, especially the casual fans. We shall see how it works out.

      I for one do not see their tv numbers jumping all that much. They will most likely tank. Most of the crap on Lifetime is watched by a certain subset of women, and A +E shows are reality shows for the lowest common denominator. I don’t know why they didn’t try to secure a deal with Fox Sports or ESPN.

      • I have my DVR programmed already to record anything with “NWSL” in the title, but general sports fans probably won’t find it. Hopefully A+E is as behind it as they claim to be and there will be appropriate advertising on their other channels to drive viewers to Lifetime.

  • Som Termanni

    > Gulati, widely hailed as the brains behind the formation of NWSL

    And this is the deal that description deserves.

    – International rights AND SPONSORSHIP RIGHTS for a top-division sports league will yet again be handled by a media group with NO sports experience. WNBA on Lifetime predates A+E and the people who ran Lifetime Sports are all scattered to the wind. There were no announcements of A+E hiring people with any sports experience, much less sports licensing experience.

    This is several different kinds of disaster rolled into one:

    USSF, capable of securing deals for the NTs and depending on SUM/MLS, couldn’t be bothered to put the effort into securing deals for the NWSL.

    MLS, despite effectively having a 40% stake in the league by four MLS teams owning franchises in a single-entity arrangement, couldn’t be bothered—or possibly even _allowed_—to secure deals for its investments that could even potentially come at the expense or disadvantage of independent teams.

    Plush, now more than ever, is a redundant figurehead. Dubac’s group handles licensing, sponsorship, media, online. He already abdicated ops to Duffy. What does he have left to do? What’s Plush’s job? Why does he still have one?! Public face? He’s useless! What sort of sht does he have on Gulati to still be there?!

    And Gulati. Christ. NASL, and especially USL which has a similar media arrangement as the NWSL has had in the past, need to look at this and sweat. USL mortgaged their future to move up to a meaningless D-II designation in USSF’s so-called pyramid, and this is the guy they bent over backwards for to get there. This is what he’ll do to a league of the same prestige, with the same resources, when given the chance. And USL is marching right into line for a chance to, what, get USSF’s aid in securing a TV deal? Where? VICELAND? Good damn luck with that.

    – Likewise, “negotiations are underway for a partner to distribute matches not aired on Lifetime.” The only hopes are either a monetized return to YouTube, which is unlikely as that would be as easy as clicking a few buttons on the existing YouTube account, or ESPN3/FSGO/beIN digital, which could very well lock out most of the international fanbase.

    – “Game of the Week” means 24 matches out of 240, maybe 27 with playoffs. Only 18-21 more matches than FOX and 1/10 of the entire schedule. The season starts in two months and 90% OF THE MATCHES DON’T HAVE A DISTRIBUTION STRATEGY YET!

    – Lifetime’s existing programming, the “exclusive content” notes, and Dubac’s slogan-like hammering of “be inspired” does not bode well for the programming. Very real fears that Lifetime will prefer off-field drama over soccer-geared content for what they produce outside of match day. Even worse if they decide to “tell stories” DURING matches that fans already know and soccer fans don’t want to hear.

    – OK, you got your stupid crap TV deal. Where’s the schedule? How many matches are going to wind up opposite major leagues? LIkewise, how many matches will wind up at 2 p.m. in July in 100-degree heat in North Carolina, Florida, Houston to avoid scheduling issues? How many west-coast games will wind up played at noon?

    – Nobody else having flashbacks to WUSA’s equity stake with Turner? To the sorts of dumpster fires that bought those stakes when Turner realized it was a bad investment? Nobody? Just me. OK. Sure.

    • Bruce

      I was writing a similar post, but you hit all of the points, hard.

      If you care about the future of the league, today is not a good day.

      • Som Termanni

        “Alright Jeff, so the team we want to feature first is the one in DC. Great market, great sports market. I hear lots of drama there last season. Let’s get cameras in there right away. Do you have that Lynch guy’s phone number?”

        The worst-case scenario for this deal is the _mother_ of all tire fires. A network full of reality show producers given the ammo of Bill Lynch and a league management that let Frontier Field happen.

        Oh lord.

        Oh my goodness, Watch them hire Hope Solo as their main ex-athlete personality. That’s exactly the sort of crap this deal will breed.

      • Steglitz49

        Feel free to invest your own cash. I presume you already attend the games in your neck of the woods.

    • Steglitz49

      It is up to the women who play in the NWSL to ensure that enough people come and watch them play.

      The NWSL is professional WoSo, not amateur WoSo. Nobody in the US owe the players a living and after their Bomb in Brasilia their shares are not trading high.

      If you want to watch the biggest name in US WoSo you have to go to France.

      • USMNTfan4life

        Agreed. Some WoSo fans and players assume that the world is their oyster, and people need to bring them gifts ($$, success, cars, etc.) but these WoSo players need people to care and want to watch their product. It is a hard slog, but many in WoSo are filled with envy and entitlement, so I don’t see any success coming out of this tv deal.

        • Steglitz49

          That is why WoSo have rich owners and when they lose interest the clubs are in trouble.

          College WoSo benefits from Title IX. In the rich leagues in Europe it seems that WoSo benefits from political pressure behind the scenes. It is hard to know which model will prevail. I like the college one.

          With the possibly biggest name in WoSo playing her serious soccer in France and not even in Paris and with two well known USWNT members, strictly speaking one an ex, slumming it in London, the times are a-changin’.

          • USMNTfan4life

            I think most WoSo owners are not rich, that is why payrolls are not that great. Maybe now that the games are on women-targeted channels, women might care. Men still won’t, and I doubt they ever will.

          • Steglitz49

            … and the men have the disposable cash.

            4% of 95% is more than 70% of 5%.

    • #1Fan

      Candidate for the best post i have ever seen on the EQ. I feel your passion as someone who cares deeply about the league and I agree with all your points.

      Respect to you !!

      • CED

        Candidate for delusional and idiotic post of the year. NWSL is lucky anybody wnats to show a game per week…Fox, ESPN, etc…didn’t .

        • kernel_thai

          Have to agree. The bidding rights consisted of one slip in a jar they borrowed from Dubuc.

    • CED

      I love the delusion that NWSL somehow had better deals and thus they had a choice. Fox Sports, ESPN, etc..are not any more interested than they werre in the past. They only want to do a handful of games per yr, like they have done in the past. A&E offered them a regular time slot of weekly games. They weren’t getting anything better from actual sports networks b/c they already have better content.

      • Bruce

        I find it impossible to believe that USSF couldn’t get NWSL a better deal simply be adding them to negotiations for USWNT, USMNT and Mexican MNT distribution arrangements.

        That agreements on these fronts gave the league absolutely nothing over the years shows that the NWSL simply isn’t a priority to them.

        Even so, no deal is better than a bad deal.

        • Very good points about USSF/MLS/SUM. It’s another in a long line of examples where we are thrown scraps and expected to be grateful for them. The deal sounds good just because we have been desperate for a TV deal, but as much as Lifetime expressed their support during the press conference, the terms of the deal make it obvious that they’re not “all in.” Hedging their bets by only screening one game/week.

          And I wonder how much of the good of being on TV will be offset by the new schedule. I’m not jazzed about a permanent 4pmET/3pmCT/12pmPT Saturday schedule. I hope they still take seasonality into account when making schedules because a mid-day game in certain months in half of these cities is going to suck.

          I really hope that it turns out to be awesome and not terrible, but I’m annoyed that women’s soccer doesn’t rate as a sport worthy of being on a sports network.

          • Steglitz49

            There is a fundamental question in how to get ladies team sports on the screen. Ladies individual sports that get screen time, the lady competitors are (often) intermingled with the male. A sort of bundling, if you prefer.

            FIFA forces the networks to buy the ladies WC when they buy the men’s. Some European WoSo is on the box but not an awful lot, the shining exceptions being the FA women’s Cup Final on the BBC and the ladies Champions League final.

            Let’s trust this deal works out.

          • guest

            as you note FIFA forces the networks to buy women’s WC when they buy rights to men’s WC.
            In Australia, federation forced the TV deal to include both MNT & WNT and both men’s A-league and women’s W-league.

            My opinion, USSF did not include NWSL in MNT/WNT & MLS TV deal but could have – sometime within the past 3 years -forced FOX/ESPN to re-negotiate to add NWSL to the USMNT, USWNT, and MLS TV deal

          • Steglitz49

            Maybe if the USWNT had not bungled it in Brasilia a bundling might have been possible.

            The USWNT must now rebuild its brand. This will be hard when the next big tournament is not till 2019. Let’s hope this deal can see them through.

          • USMNTfan4life

            Let’s be honest. Professional WoSo is not a huge deal, and most Americans do not have nationalist tendencies outside of international tournaments. So, WoSo needs to get people to care, and outside of a small number of dedicated WoSo fans (LBGTQ is the largest percentage), the general public and casual fans do not seem that interested. That goes for Men’s professional soccer as well. Being on tv does not mean peopel care, but it is live content (see drone racing on ESPN-rediculous).

            You get table scraps because fans like yourself are under the belief that others around the country share your passion. They don’t. The players have to get people to care. There is nothing that can be done if the public does not.

          • Steglitz49

            The difference is that the USWNT had until 2016 consistently been one of the very top NTs in the world while the same could not be said of the USMNT.

            The woes of the USMNT are best illustrated by comparison with Norway. Norway was able to coach Lars Lagerbäck out of retirement, to give up his lucrative TV-deals, in order to take charge of the Norwegian MNT which currently is ranked 84th, breathing down the neck of the Faeroe Islands. Lagerbäck is not paid much. He is doing it out of interest, like he helped Iceland.

            Why could the USMNT not land this man?

          • TsovLoj

            >most Americans do not have nationalist tendencies

            …Have you spent much time around Americans? my face rn

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a939709546d2f4589c11f941c14c1cc49abf1088d1795a545eab8d7625fc0f8a.jpg

          • I’d rather have the table scrapes on ESPN and SportCenter, though. Like you said, they manage to find air time for drone racing, darts, bowling, and numerous “sports” that only take place in Vegas, but there’s no time in their schedule for Women’s Soccer?

          • Steglitz49

            One assumes that they put on the shows that give them the best attendances and thereby the best advert revenue.

        • USMNTfan4life

          Pro WoSo is not a huge priority outside of giving national team players a venue to play so they stay match fit. Fortune 500 companies are not banging on the door of the NWSL, which means it is not a viable way for them to promote their companies.

          Outside of national team games against weak opponents, none of corporate America wants in. Sad fact, but true.

    • Breakers fan

      Thanks for your perspective and your passion for hoping for what’s BEST for the league. I share your concerns. Really hoping they don’t veer off into off-field, reality-show drama territory. I don’t think they will. Now that it’s happened I’m trying to see how it make it best work and if there are positives. Of course I would have preferred a traditional sports network get the contract and I wish the USSF had made that happen, assuming it was possible. I don’t know that much about the realities of tv deals and whether it’s realistic to expect that really could have happened.

      I think it’s good that Nancy Dubuc, the A+E CEO played college sports. I just looked it up and saw that she rowed at Boston University. That leads me to think that she’ll (hopefully) not let it go astray into “Dance Moms” land. They probably will do stories about individual players – maybe little pre-game profiles but I don’t think that necessarily will be a bad thing, as long as they keep it firmly centered around soccer. I do hope Solo is not brought in. Dubuc mentioned that the game commentators will be ones who have World Cup/Olympic experience, so it’ll almost for sure be people we’re familiar with. That’s good – better than unknowns, I would say.

      I don’t understand the business aspects of this that well, though, not being a businessman myself. Is it possible that it’s better that this deal didn’t happen at all? That it would have been better if things had stayed precisely as they were last year? If so, can you explain why that would be?

      I do wonder what % equity stake they have and what that means in terms of decisions made about the league in the future.

      I’m not familiar at all with the WUSA Turner network experience. How did that play out when Turner wanted out?

      Overall, it seems to me, admittedly somewhat naive about this whole thing from a business perspective, that, while not ideal, in perhaps the world of what was realistically feasible that it’s a good thing, (better than if it didn’t happen). That it will only help the league, to some extent. I mean, what’s the worst case scenario? That ratings aren’t good? Wouldn’t the league still be getting more exposure even with low ratings than if this deal hadn’t happened? Fill me in on what I’m missing.

      • VaFan51

        This may seem trivial, but I was heartened that 3 of the 5 people in front of the camera during the presentation are female.
        Now, we have to work on the NWSL coaching population.

        • Breakers fan

          I agree with that. I’ve wondered, when NWSL coaching jobs become available, why some top women college coaches haven’t been hired?. And the answer may be quite simple: That top DI women’s soccer program head-coaching jobs are way more lucrative and probably way more stable than an NWSL coaching job. Is that an accurate statement, hypothesis, explanation?

          • #1Fan

            Nit sure i understand. Surely we just hire the most qualified candidates? I think we need more women taking caoching badges before we can move the needle. As far as better job? College ALL DAY .

          • Breakers fan

            I agree that we should just hire the most qualified candidates, be they male or female. I just thought that maybe at least some of those “best candidates” are current D1, (wouldn’t rule out a great D2 coach for that matter) women coaches. What’s your thinking about whether it can maybe be best for young women to be coached by a woman? I know there is no possible way to generalize about this, but your thoughts on the matter, if you have developed any from all of your experience with the girls game for many years and all the different coaches you must have come across?

            As you say, in the end, a college job is simply a better position than an NWSL job for now at least. It would take a probably rare individual who simply aspired to working at the pro level to leave an established college job.

          • #1Fan

            the idea of having more women involved is very appealing. However its a grass roots problem. Nikkii Izzo Brow, Erica Walsh ( Dambach) , Trish Taliaferro, Becky Burleigh, Alison Foley are all coaching major College programs. I bet they earn multiples of a NWSL coach . have more control as well and arguably work with players of similar standard who actually take direction:)

          • VaFan51

            I have no particular expertise or experience here, but it seems reasonable to wonder why on earth a top-flight U.S. college coach would leave a well-established and attractive college program to go to a less well-established pro league, especially when that pro league is not exactly awash in salary cash.
            Just look at the tenures of the best -known coaches at the big programs in the ACC, Pac-12, Big 10, SEC, etc. I think Anson Dorrance came over with the British colonists.
            It seems to happen a little more often on the men’s side (Bruce Arena, Caleb Porter, etc.), but Jill Ellis is nearly alone among coaches for women.
            Unless something pretty fundamental changes, the successful NCAA programs seem destined to always siphon off the up-and-coming women coaches. Is that a hindrance for the development of U.S. coaches for the pro and international ranks? I really don’t know.

          • #1Fan

            the only thing that changes is if those jobs pay more 🙂

          • #1Fan

            I will add this. I feel some of our YNT issues stem form a rush to hire women who were less qualified for the job to replace men who were. Im not trying to stir the pot, just stating my opinion.

          • Breakers fan

            No, thanks, I am with you that “qualified candidate” is a criterion that should supersede all others. No doubt, also, that with certain hires there would be debate over their worthiness relative to other candidates. I just wonder if in general the female-to-female dynamic tends to work better? The truth is that one simply can’t generalize about this, but I’m talking statistically does that tend to work better? Maybe not. I could totally see it not really making any difference at all, that it completely comes down to the individual involved.

          • #1Fan

            it is important to have women involved at some level. Does not have to be head coach. I know my kid responded very well to having women involved in the coaching and playing. AT youth level it is a good idea to get College and pro players involved in training sessions in their off season

          • Steglitz49

            By your logic women do not have to sit on the Supreme Court either or be Secretary of State or whatever — but they do.

          • Steglitz49

            You could turn it around and say that if these male coaches were any good then they would be coaching top men’s teams and creaming in the money.

            If we want ladies to try their hands at coaching then there must be opportunities for the ladies too.

      • mockmook

        You’re not missing anything — I don’t understand the negativism from st

        My reading of this is that Gulati feels that after helping to start the league and continuing to subsidize it is enough. Now, it is up to the League to grow itself.

        • Som Termanni

          I come off as negative because I think the equity stake and board seats means the NWSL is giving up more to Lifetime for this deal more than Lifetime’s paying the league.

          If this story was “NWSL sells game-of-the-week broadcast rights to Lifetime for $2M/year” I’d be dancing, because even if the money is next to nothing for a live sports TV deal, it’s something, which is better than nothing.

          If that worked, the league comes back in 3 years, waves its ratings at ESPN/Fox/NBC, and waits for the 7-figure offers. If it didn’t work, the NWSL can bounce on the deal as the WNBA did, or renegotiate it, or ride it out—they get paid either way, and at least some exposure.

          But “NWSL sells the equivalent of two franchises of equity to A+E, also gets game-of-the-week rights” is nerve-wracking. It’s a mortgage, not a payout.

          If it works, the best-case scenario is that the league splits much of the gains with A+E until it can buy back that equity, so it not only has to work, it has to work _really well_, and quickly, to be worth it to everyone. Even after three years, if it’s a smashing success and the rights are up for renewal, A+E has two seats on the board to vote against a better deal from a different provider—and still profits from it if they’re overruled. That’s the nature of investment, sure, but it puts a cap and conditions on the benefit the NWSL can reap that wouldn’t exist if it were just a licensing deal.

          And if this _doesn’t_ work, the league could be hurt badly. Board meetings could wind up distracted, or even driven, by potentially unattainable TV or digital metrics instead of player welfare, on-field product, or fan growth. Lifetime could sell the equity off to any number of bad actors: low-quality investors, or MLS/SUM to trigger contraction and push independent teams out, or a different TV or media partner even less capable of helping the league.

          Equity or ownership deals involving media groups haven’t worked for a sports league in a very long time, if ever—they failed for WUSA, USFL, and XFL. MLS survived a similar, but lesser, deal by making SUM up out of nothing and hooking USSF on it.

          Dan describes the NWSL Media joint venture as a “poor man’s SUM”, but SUM wasn’t ever beholden to a third party that has no other investment in soccer the way NWSL Media is to A+E.

          I’m excited about parts of this deal, and in the short-term it gives fans many more tools to grow the game. The online and mobile modernizations alone are huge. But the things that can go wrong with this deal are potentially devastating, and history offers far more examples of failure than success.

          I want the league to tread carefully with A+E and continue tempering expectations—the one thing they’ve consistently done that’s ensured the league’s survival to this point—and I want woso media (lol) and fans to hold the league accountable for the deal as it unfolds.

          The rah-rah attitude around the deal is heartening as a fan, but worrisome as someone with an eye on the bottom line and long-term survivability of the league.

          It’s a good league. It deserves a good deal. USSF wouldn’t leverage a good deal, so we’ve got this one, and we have to live with it and make it work. But that doesn’t make it a good deal, or a safe one, or a deal where the league comes out ahead in the end in most outcomes.

  • Ando91881

    The general stereotype out there is that the Lifetime Channel is a station with trashy programming aimed at a heavily female audience. Not a respectable station for the mainstream person. Basically, it is mommy porn.

    • USMNTfan4life

      I like your analogy, “mommy porn.” LMFAO. Too true. When I channel surf, the programming is usually pscyho teacher who has affair with father and student,etc or some other dumb crap. These Networks cater to a small, specific demographic.

      • Movement

        So I married an Axe Murderer …. will probably come out with a Sequel, and it will be featured on Lifetime. The young attractive female will have a lust affair with an Axe Murderer, and then eventually fall in love with him, marry him, and then he’ll kill her sister, because he can’t stand the fact of having a sister in law who can influence her decision making.

        -Sounds like Lifetime programming

    • Movement

      So basically it’s Rampone porn.

      • Steglitz49

        ARod and Syd too?

    • Lorehead

      Not sure who counts as more mainstream than moms! But one important point here is that lead-ins are crucial. It’s not enough that a decent number of people watch the match, for Lifetime; which will only really happen if they stay tuned from whatever was on before; they then have to stay tuned to whatever’s on after.

      The traditional Lifetime audience are not, according to stereotype, sports fans, but NBC for the Olympics came up with a very successful formula to sell women on human-interest stories about athletes.

  • VaFan51

    This is a big opportunity. Opportunity.
    It’s not a sure thing and every fan could think of alternatives which sound better, at least from the outside. But, if nothing else, it puts more bucks into the NWSL and that is an unalloyed good thing.
    It’s a step forward; the only question is how big a step. To some degree, success will depend on the quality of the broadcast production, a factor we have no way to judge. And we will get to see how it works with a wide-open year (2017), all the way through the next World Cup.
    Personally, I think it’s good, with a chance to be very good.
    Of course, there are elements of risk, but as Lt. Frank Drebin reassured us, “You take a chance getting up in the morning, crossing the street, or sticking your face in a fan.”

    • Breakers fan

      I’m with you here. Better that this has happened vs. nothing having happened. If someone can explain why I might be mistaken in thinking that I’m all ears.

      I wonder if A+E – with their 7 or 8 tv channels – plans to promote, with advertisements, the upcoming televised games on ALL or at least a high % of those channels? I hope so.

    • kernel_thai

      I think it’s a place to start which everything needs. Where it goes from there depends mostly on the effort the principals put into it.

    • Lorehead

      I wonder if that’s how the league was able to double the minimum salary.

      I’ll take a wait-and-see approach on what kind of job Lifetime does. I hope the games will at least be archived on YouTube.

  • newsouth

    A&E has duck dynasty among other things. i would also suggest nwsl put together a reality type segment for the network also. think out of the box. Life with Christen Press.

    • Movement

      Absolutely. If they actually study how “new” fans become attracted to women’s soccer, it’s not that they’re necessarily getting attracted to the entire landscape of women’s soccer from the start, instead they are getting attracted to one or more of the players in a variety of ways. You have your new Krieger fans, new Alex Morgan fans, new Tobin Heath fans, and so on. Just watch how their volume of twitter followers continue to multiply big time with new people who discover them and adore them.

      Having new reality shows like “Life with Christen Press”, or “Taking a Walk and Talking About Stuff with Tobin” would be a hit thing for a ton of Lifetime viewers (who normally don’t watch much soccer) to fall in love with these players. They see the reality aspect (as shown on Lifetime) about these great players, and it gets them “intrigued” to watch them in action, and then they realize this women’s soccer thing (on the same channel – Lifetime) is something they want to watch more often (via NWSL and with the national team, as they eventually tune the channel to ESPN2 or Fox Sports 1 to watch Tobin play for the national team).

      • Steglitz49

        In short, you explain why no commentator onthe EQ has been able to answer the simple question: who designed the dress that Margaret Purce wore at the draft?

  • AlexH

    How much of an equity stake? Enough to make A+E want this deal to succeed or enough to allow them to call the shots?

    • Som Termanni

      Enough for two board seats, so their opinion counts twice as much as any team’s. I expect the share is significant.

  • kernel_thai

    Pros
    – they will have matches on basic cable that runs the length of the season. The problem with previous deals is u don’t build an audience with a couple matches and the playoffs…it only caters to the choir.
    – Set day and time was the bases for every major sports league in the free tv days. NFL was 1 and 4 eat. National baseball game Saturday afternoon. It allows people to tune in by habit.
    – actually have a national sponsor and production partner.

    Cons
    – Saturday at 4pm makes it tough to schedule summer matches in Houston and Orlando
    – Having a set time may also make it hard to get some facilities which is made worse if u pull club controlled grounds in Houston & Orlando out of the Summer mix
    – Getting away from free non geoblocked Youtube matches is a mistake
    – seems like they have a real short window to get all this up and running by April.

    • Bruce

      I think you have to add to the cons the impact of selling an equity stake and outsourcing all distribution and commercial operations to a partner who has NO experience or measured commitment in any of the related fields. That for me puts the very future of the league at risk.

      With no other similar properties, A+E’s entire commitment to sports programming is a function of *immediate* NWSL success. If things don’t take off quickly with no greater organization to keep things moving forward, on the shelf it goes.

      Structurally, this is a terrible arrangement.

      • kernel_thai

        Sure but that’s pretty much what u already had with mom and pop production run by the teams. The first year might be rough but the last two years should be an upgrade.

      • mockmook

        There was essentially no promotion under the current system. Don’t see how this is a negative.

        • Bruce

          My fear is that the league has essentially lit the fuse to possible bankruptcy while putting all of its eggs in the basket of an unproven partner.

          This infusion of cash prompts the League to dramatically raise its cost structure (we can already see that in salaries) which will make it impossible to go back to guerrilla mode. If organic revenue doesn’t increase significantly by year three, the NWSL could easily find itself in a place where operating deficits are huge and Lifetime pulls out while owning all of the commercial infrastructure. That would be the end of the league.

          That this is *exactly* how the WUSA went under seems to be lost on almost everyone (except Som).

          A less sexy approach that would have required real work would have been to work behind the scenes to bring in better ownership/management at the club level while providing a central marketing service for each. Filling the league with Portland-quality owners would have allowed the league to approach media partners as an equal, and avoid the risk that is so evident in the current deal.

          Like it or not, the clock is ticking.

          • Contrary to WUSA, we still don’t have 6-figure salaries in this league, so I think we’re safe for the foreseeable future.

    • Kansas City summers are no picnic in the afternoon, either, but I think that’s why we tend to have most of our home matched in April and May with only one home match per month in June, July, August.

  • Som Termanni

    > Negotiations are underway for a partner to distribute matches not aired on Lifetime. It was not immediately clear if YouTube, which free streamed most matches over NWSL’s first four seasons, is still on the table.

    According to Jeff Kassouf on FourFourTwo, YouTube is still an option, but they want their own controlled streaming platform. Jeff heavily emphasizes that the Lifetime deal is supposed to be multiformat and digital. http://www.fourfourtwo.com/us/features/nwsl-tv-deal-lifetime-ae-broadcast-digital-future

    • Bruce

      From what was said in the presser, it sounds like they really want to go to a proprietary platform (like Fox Soccer sites and app). No way anything like that is ready for this season.

    • Bruce

      Not sure what’s happening to your posts, but a few are disappearing. Here’s a follow-up I wasn’t able to post about your note re NeuLion…

      Can’t say enough how appreciative I am of the information / insight you are providing on this topic.

      I work in the web software world (maybe you do too?), Can’t stress enough how much time is needed to set up even out of the box solutions – particularly when your company has no prior expertise or even current employees focused on those fields.

      I’d be shocked if this is a 2017 thing. Pleased, but still shocked.

      • TsovLoj

        What’s with all the purging of Som? Mods have mercy

        I think a Netflix or Hulu hookup would be a fantastic idea. That’s
        going to reach the kind of young adults who don’t use conventional
        television.

        • A_Dog_Without_A_Clutch

          They should have gone full on with Netflix. What they lack in live coverage common sense they can more than make up with in inventiveness.

  • Som Termanni

    Women’s networks aren’t doing well. It looks like Oxygen folded yesterday to become a true crime network, something A+E’s already started shifting their focus toward. http://www.multichannel.com/news/content/oxygen-rebrand-true-crime-channel/410607

    • Lorehead

      So you’re saying they will bring in Hope Solo?

  • A_Dog_Without_A_Clutch
    • Calci0

      Even if that’s the case, was the promotion they were recieving from ESPN or Fox, really going to expand the NWSL’s popularity? Or Actually invest in the league? And the key is the A&E/Disney connection.

      • A_Dog_Without_A_Clutch

        They should have gone to Netflix. With Lifetime you are just preaching to the converted in a smaller scale.

        • mockmook

          Perhaps you can make that deal happen.

    • We’re all being pretty negative here, but let’s look on the bright side for a minute. What is Lifetime needs just as much as we need them? We managed to get 100,000 viewers for an Orlando live stream because Alex Morgan told people to tune in. How much easier do you think it will be to get viewers that follow these athletes to tune in when the game is on an actual TV network, not just at a URL?

      How brilliant would it be if NWSL was able to add 100,000 viewers/week to Lifetime? How many people do you know who go to the local games, but don’t watch any online? Now you can spread the word and maybe get them to tune in to more matches. The best thing we can hope for is for NWSL to have a positive impact on ratings and to become the success story.

      • A_Dog_Without_A_Clutch

        I regard Lifetime as moving back with your parents while still holding on to meager paying job. Netflix would be like getting a full-paid scholarship for graduates’ school. I understand the current deal is a bird in the hand, but there are some absolutely beautiful birds in them bushes.

  • TsovLoj

    Why are we so desperate for a television deal? Just stick with the streaming, find a way to monetize it. Don’t bend over backwards for a last-century media distribution system.

    That said, as long as we don’t lose said streaming, this isn’t the worst thing in the world. I wouldn’t mind watching at the bar on a screen big enough that I’m not going blind. But still, I hope these guys know what they’re doing.

  • NWSL site stuck on page 1

    the NWSL site ( nwslsoccer.com ) has opening page announcing NWSL A+E deal
    but …. “learn more” … “enter site” buttons on page do not work?

    Has re-work of NWSL site started?
    when will NWSL site be available?

    kind of awkward to hype announcement with site stuck on opening page

  • atalba

    This contract is a great opportunity for the NWSL. Nancy Dubuc gave an awesome and telling speech. LIfetime TV is a channel, property of A+E Networks, which is 50% owned by Hearst Media and 50% owned by Disney. Dubuc appears to be a star in the network world and realizes there’s a mission in society to promote women in all facets of society, and in sports. Her decision comes with the requirement to solicit sponsors for the programming, and she pointedly called out business to support the cause. Now that Lifetime is paying for the ride, this is about any other programming – advertising, and eyeballs. Lifetime is a channel to promote women and an entertainment entity for women. That’s their brand. However, it doesn’t really matter what channel it’s on. Today’s viewer is on the internet looking for entertainment, and is not totally aligned with the broadcaster. With NWSLMedia, we should expect quality broadcasting which enables itself for many broadcasting options. Facebook broadcasts NBA D-League live. Half the young world watches Youtube channels. These are great media options.But with Hearst and Disney, there are many options, if eyes can be counted to warrant the adoption.

    I don’t think there’s valid reason to be underwhelmed with the particular channel. Baby steps. One fuels the other. The largest audience NOT watching NWSL that SHOULD are young women and girls. What better way to reach them with commercials from companies that make the products they buy?!

    The sign behind the announcement needs to be littered with other logos before anybody should have the expectation of being broadcast on ESPN with commercials. All media lives and survives on ad revenue, period.

    • Som Termanni

      > The largest audience NOT watching NWSL that SHOULD are young women and girls.

      The largest audience not watching the NWSL is of soccer fans who believe women can’t produce a compelling on-field product. I imagine the intersection of that group and of people who didn’t watch POR-WNY or WAS-WNY last year overlaps quite a bit.

      I also imagine, as was noted in the press event about the NFL, that the group is more diverse than “young women and girls”—it includes them, but doesn’t exclude others.

      • Steglitz49

        You type — “The largest audience not watching the NWSL is of soccer fans who believe women can’t produce a compelling on-field product.” — The reality is that a lot of young women and girls are in that category. They consider WoSo too slow, not enough skill and simply boring.

        It would seem that WoSo’s natural audience is elsewhere.

        • Som Termanni

          Once again, you stopped reading at the first sentence.

          • Steglitz49

            Next time make your point clearly, succinctly and early. KISS.

  • Sue

    Well the NWSL just lost a fan! I won’t support Lifetime! Crap simply Crap!

    • Calci0

      But ESPN was ok? Fox was fine?!?

    • troll

      • Steglitz49

        I have not come across this “Sue” before. Maybe it is “a boy called Sue”?

  • atalba

    Lifetime has, like other TV channels, had to deal with shrinking audiences and pay TV subscribers dumping traditional cable packages in favor of online entertainment.

    Live sports have been shown to be less affected by those trends.

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-02/lifetime-to-air-women-s-soccer-in-push-to-broaden-tv-fempire

    • Steglitz49

      Not surprising. Sport should be watched live.

      In 2003 45% of Sweden’s population watched the ladies World Cup final between Sweden and Germany. It has been claimed that 37% of Japan stayed up the night to watch the WC-11 final. They were not disappointed.

      “Live free or die”, it says on number plates. Sport lives live or it dies.

  • Steglitz49

    Why is Som Termanni being moderated? He is pretty moderate in his views.

  • sandrae gunter

    Happy its not on Bein Sports which no one has Compare to Lifetime