The television money has finally arrived for the National Women’s Soccer League.
On Thursday, two days ahead of the NWSL Championship, the league announced new four-year media distribution deals with four different partners for a total fee of about $60 million annually and $240 million cumulative, The Equalizer confirmed. CBS Sports, which has aired NWSL games since 2020, will remain as one of the league’s partners and will be joined by ESPN, Amazon’s Prime Video, and Scripps Sports ION network.
The deals, which begin in 2024 and run through the 2027 season, include distribution of 118 games, with the remaining matches to “be part of a domestic direct-to-consumer package produced and distributed by the NWSL,” the league said. That could take the form of either a fifth broadcast partner or a package the league produces and sells itself. Multiple sources said that there could be options to sell rights to games locally.
One of the league’s strategies with multiple partners is to create dedicated time slots for games to create consistent viewing habits. Prime Video will air Friday night games each week of the regular season, while ION will air exclusive Saturday night doubleheaders at 7:30 p.m. ET and 10 p.m. ET. ION is an over-the-air broadcast network that reaches 123 million homes. It has a similar deal with the WNBA for dedicated Friday night games.
CBS previously signed a rights deal in 2020 worth about $4.5 million over three years. The deal was extended through this season after the first year of the deal was largely lost to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Thursday, the NWSL announced in conjunction with the rights deal that the playoffs will expand to eight teams in 2024, up from six for the past three seasons. The additions of Bay FC and Utah Royals FC bring the league to 14 teams next year.
CBS will remain the host of the NWSL Championship in primetime each season. ESPN will air two quarterfinals per season and one semifinal per season, with Prime airing one quarterfinal and CBS also airing one quarterfinal and one semifinal.
ION will also broadcast the 2024 NWSL Draft in January.
In a statement, NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman said: “We have taken great care to ensure our games are discoverable by increasing our reach in order to expose new audiences to everything that makes our league special, without compromising the economic value of our product. This is the beginning of our future.”
The league says that all partners are “committed to marketing and promoting the league” across all their available platforms.
Here is how each partner’s deal breaks down per season:
- Minimum of 21 Games
- Regular season:
- CBS and Paramount+: Minimum of 10 games per season
- CBS Sports Network: Minimum of 8 games per season
- CBS and Paramount+: 1 quarterfinal per season
- CBS and Paramount+: 1 semifinal per season
- CBS and Paramount+: NWSL Championship
- 20 games
- Regular season:
- 17 regular season games per season
- 2 quarterfinals per season
- 1 semifinal per season
- 27 games
- Regular season:
- 25 Friday night games per season
- 1 season-opening kickoff match
- 1 quarterfinal per season
- 50 games
- 25 exclusive Saturday night double-headers on ION, games with 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET starts.
- Weekly studio show leading off each doubleheader Saturday at 7 p.m. ET
- 2024 NWSL Draft
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