CBS snaps up Champions League rights in USA; UK bids submitted today
CBS, the US national network, has sprung a surprise by acquiring exclusive Uefa Champions League and Europa League rights in its home market in the next cycle.
The deal for the European club competitions with Uefa and its Team Marketing agency covers the 2021-22 to 2023-24 seasons, with CBS to succeed Turner Sports as the rights-holder.
CBS will show matches on its main network, including the Champions League final, with games also to be carried on the cable sports channel and CBS All Access, its streaming platform.
Univision has retained Spanish-language rights for the next cycle.
According to reports in USA, the CBS-Univision deal is worth $140 million per season, up from the $100 million per season Turner and Univision presently pay.
Turner is in its second season airing the Champions League on TNT, but most of the matches through the round of 16 are part of Bleacher Report's streaming package.
It replaced Fox as the English-language rights-holder of the two competitions in 2018-19.
Meanwhile, bids are due today for Champions League and Europa League rights in the UK, with incumbent BT Sport, the pay-TV operator, expected to face a stiff challenge from rival Sky, commercial broadcaster ITV and potentially DAZN, the international over-the-top streaming service that has yet to make its move in the country, despite being headquartered there.
BT Sport has held exclusive live rights to the Champions League and Europa League since 2015, and its present three-year deal, running to 2021, is worth £1.18 billion ($1.44 billion).
Live rights to the Champions League were previously shared by ITV and Sky, with the commercial network broadcasting one game each matchweek, while its pay-TV partner showed all of the others, and a similar arrangement is expected if they return to the fray.
ITV continued to offer highlights of both European club competitions until 2018, but BT has full rights under its current contract.
BT’s large investment in sport has been questioned in some quarters, especially given relatively low audiences for European games, and a falling share price, in 2019.
Speaking to the UK's Times newspaper, new Sky Sports managing director Rob Webster said: “We do have enormous respect for Uefa and their tournaments. The Champions League is without question a premium right in our marketplace.
“It is particularly prevalent now maybe, given what happened last season and the success of the English clubs — in the Europa League as well [with both finals contested by two Premier League clubs].
“It’s a fantastic set of rights, I’m not going to pretend otherwise and we adopt a disciplined and rational approach to the value of rights in the marketplace, but something like the Champions League is hard to walk past without taking a look.”
DAZN operates in nine markets, with a target of being in 20 by 2020, and executive chairman John Skipper told the Leaders Sport Business Summit in London last month: “The UK is definitely a logical DAZN market. When you think about what we’ve done, we’ve launched in four continents so we want to show a global footprint. We’ve launched in big markets, Japan, Germany, Italy, Spain, USA and Brazil, so if you took the next largest markets, they would be the most likely markets for us to launch in and that’s places like the UK.
“In terms of the rights in this country, obviously you need [English soccer’s] Premier League rights, boxing is very important here and tennis is very important here.”