The deal

North American women's soccer's top-tier NWSL has agreed lucrative, long-term domestic media rights deals with broadcasters ESPN, CBS (the incumbent partner), Amazon, and Scripps through the 2027 season.

The league has signed four-year contracts – starting next year – with each partner, which it has said will “generate record-breaking distribution and revenue for the league while maximizing a mix of linear and digital streaming distribution.”

Beginning in 2024, 118 matches will be distributed across the platforms of the four broadcasters.

The NWSL has said all four rights partners “have made significant commitments to marketing and promoting the NWSL, and importantly, cross-marketing each other’s scheduled broadcasts.”

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Under its deal with CBS, the NWSL was required to pay for its game production, which cost the league eight figures per year.

Production costs will, in contrast, be covered by the four broadcast partners in the new deal.

NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman, said: “We have taken great care to ensure our games are discoverable by increasing our reach 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 new rights deal also ensures the NWSL will have broad multi-platform exposure across several major networks in the US, which marks the end of an exclusive three-year deal with CBS Sports.

The agreements will run for four years so that the league rights can be sold again directly after the 2027 Women’s World Cup, which the United States and Mexico are bidding to host.

Peter Scrimgeour, senior analyst at GlobalData Sport, commented: “The landmark deal is a major boost for the NWSL, significantly increasing its (annual) value by 3,900% on the previous agreement. The value highlights the phenomenal growth in the women's game, and that broadcasters are also increasing their investment in women’s sport.

“The $60 million-per-season deal is not only the biggest in women’s soccer, but the biggest broadcast deal of any professional women’s domestic league in the world – surpassing cricket’s Indian-based Women's Premier League annual value of $23.3 million.”

The new rights deal comes as the NWSL prepares to expand its league further after awarding franchise rights to Boston Unity Soccer Partners, a local ownership group led by women, with the new team set to enter the growing league in 2026.

The 12-team league currently sees each side play a 22-game regular season, with the top six teams proceeding into the post-season playoffs. This will increase to 14 teams with the addition of Utah Royals FC and Bay FC for the 2024 season.

The previous biennial expansion round saw Angel FC and San Diego Wave join the league in 2022.

The detail

ESPN, CBS, Amazon, and Scripps will pay a combined $240 million over the four seasons with CBS, which just concluded its fourth year in partnership with the NWSL, retaining the rights to the league’s season finale.

By contrast, the NWSL’s previous CBS deal was worth around $1.5 million per year.

Notably, the $240 million rights fee is significantly higher than what the Women’s Super League reportedly earns in England.

The breakdown of NWSL coverage will see Amazon’s Prime Video service show 27 games each season, with Scripps to air 50 matches.

CBS will broadcast a total of 21 games each season across the regular season and playoffs, while ESPN will air 20 matches across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN Deportes (Spanish).

The remainder of the NWSL regular-season schedule, meanwhile, will be part of a domestic direct-to-consumer package produced and distributed by the NWSL.

For the expanded NWSL playoffs in 2024, Prime Video and CBS will have the rights to one quarter-final each, while ESPN/ABC will air the other two quarter-finals. CBS and ESPN/ABC will each have a semi-final.