North American women's soccer's top-tier NWSL has confirmed lucrative, long-term domestic media rights agreements 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 said will “generate record-breaking distribution and revenue for the league while maximizing a mix of linear and digital streaming distribution.”
The networks will pay a combined $240 million over the four seasons – $60 million annually – with CBS, currently in its fourth year in partnership with the NWSL, retaining the rights to the league’s season finale.
The deals were brokered on behalf of the league by the Endeavor-owned IMG and WME Sports agencies.
This will mark the end of an exclusive three-year deal with CBS Sports that will conclude after tomorrow’s (November 11) 2023 NWSL Championship match between NJ/NY Gotham FC and OL Reign.
The NWSL’s current CBS deal is worth around $1.5 million per year but requires the league to pay for its own game production, which costs eight figures per year.
How well do you really know your competitors?
Access the most comprehensive Company Profiles on the market, powered by GlobalData. Save hours of research. Gain competitive edge.
Your download email will arrive shortly
Not ready to buy yet? Download a free sample
We are confident about the unique quality of our Company Profiles. However, we want you to make the most beneficial decision for your business, so we offer a free sample that you can download by submitting the below formBy GlobalData
Production costs will, in contrast, be covered by the four broadcast partners in the new deal.
Jessica Berman, NWSL commissioner, said: “These partnerships fundamentally change the game for our league and the players who take the pitch each week. On behalf of the NWSL, our owners, and players, I want to commend CBS Sports, ESPN, Prime Video, and Scripps for investing in our league and affirmatively declaring to the marketplace that this league is exciting, valuable, and important.
“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.”
Beginning in 2024, 118 matches will be distributed across the platforms of the four broadcasters.
The NWSL will begin each regular-season weekend with Friday night matches on Amazon’s Prime Video service. Each Saturday night that follows will include a double-header on Scripps’ ION network.
Prime Video will show 27 games each season, while Scripps will air 50 matches.
Elsewhere, a package of regular season matches will air on the CBS Television Network and stream live on the Paramount+ streaming service, with additional matches airing on CBS Sports Network.
CBS will broadcast a total of 21 games each season across the regular season and playoffs.
ESPN will air 20 matches across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN Deportes (Spanish). All NWSL matches on ESPN platforms and on ABC will stream live on ESPN+ in English and Spanish. The package also includes English, Spanish, and Portuguese language rights in Latin America.
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 NWSL playoffs, set to expand in 2024 with the addition of Bay FC and the Utah Royals, 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.
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.”
Hillary Mandel, IMG executive vice president and head of Americas, said: “On behalf of the NWSL, we have secured four game-changing, marquee partnerships that will help send the women’s game to new heights of viewership and fandom, growing domestic revenues for the league at a multiple of over 40x.
“The NWSL’s new line-up of media partners is stepping up with significant rights fees, production investment, top-tier platforms, and impactful promotion. In lockstep with the NWSL, they are going to transform the ways in which fans can discover and engage with the games, assuring deserved exposure for these world-class athletes on the broadest stage.”
The deals 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.
Notably, the $240 million rights fee is significantly higher than what the Women’s Super League reportedly earns in England.
The multi-broadcaster deal is in direct contrast to the NWSL's male counterpart, Major League Soccer, which has a 10-year exclusive deal with tech giant Apple worth at least $2.5 billion.
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.