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

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.”

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