The bidding for the next U.S. contract of the UEFA Champions League (which will begin in 2024) kicked off in July with just about every U.S. media company linked, but incumbent Paramount Global (parent of CBS and Paramount+) and challenger Amazon were quickly named as the favorites. And those two wound up being in at the death, with Paramount ultimately winning (and winning a six-year deal; both three- and six-year bids were being accepted), but paying a hefty price for that. Bloomberg’s Gerry Smith broke that news Friday:
Scoop: Paramount (CBS) has renewed its US media rights to Champions League matches in a deal valued at more than $1.5 billion over six years, more than doubling the size of its previous contract. https://t.co/D22aTlkgiz
— Gerry Smith (@gerryfsmith) August 19, 2022
Here’s more from Smith’s piece at Bloomberg:
Paramount Global renewed its US media rights to Champions League football matches in a deal valued at more than $1.5 billion over six years, more than doubling the size of its previous contract in a sign of the sport’s growing popularity with Americans.
The owner of the CBS network and Paramount+ streaming service will air the annual tournament featuring Europe’s top football teams under a new agreement that runs from 2024 to 2030. Paramount will pay about $250 million per year, up from about $100 million a year under the prior deal, according to people familiar with the matter.
The six-year deal is perhaps particularly notable. As Smith’s piece notes, sports rights are going for an incredible amount at the moment, as seen not only with this increase but also with moves like the Big Ten deals. A six-year deal is a bet from the Paramount side that this property not only is worth keeping for six years rather than just three, but also would cost at least as much to re-up in three years. That bet won’t be able to be fully evaluated for a few years, but it’s interesting that they’re making it. (The specific dollar figure of $250 million a year is also interesting, as UEFA wasn’t selling at least the first three years of these rights themselves; they sold the 2024-27 rights to Miami Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross’ Relevent Sports in February, with Relevent guaranteeing they’d sell for at least $250 million a year. So Relevent managed to pull that off, but didn’t exceed it.)
The particular years in question may be part of the long-term bet Paramount is making here. A three-year deal would run through the 2026-27 season, the first one after the 2026 FIFA World Cup in the U.S./Canada/Mexico, which many are expecting to further juice soccer’s U.S. popularity. A six-year deal allows Paramount to capitalize on any bump there for a longer period of time. A six-year deal also ensures that CBS and Paramount+ will have significant soccer content for some time to come, fitting in with the many other deals they’ve been signing; that helps from several perspectives, including in attracting and retaining broadcast talent and in marketing to soccer fans. And the Champions League in particular has been looking pretty good for CBS and Paramount+, with this year’s Real Madrid-Liverpoool final (which they covered with an on-location studio show for the first time, with COVID restrictions prohibiting that in previous years) setting an English-language record with 2.761 million viewers.
The other interesting note in Smith’s piece is that the Spanish-language U.S. rights (currently with TelevisaUnivision) were initially expected to be sold at this time as well, but UEFA has decided to hold off on that to let the streaming side of that market grow a little further. But UEFA was projecting $2 billion total over six years from U.S. English- and Spanish-language rights, which they seem likely to hit. TelevisaUnivision and Paramount combined were paying around $145 million annually under the current deal, so that’s $45 million on the TelevisaUnivision side, or 45 percent of what Paramount was paying. If that ratio holds, the Spanish-language rights would be worth $112.5 million a year, or $675 million over six years, which would put the total at $2.175 billion. And the Spanish-language rights would only need to go for $83.3 million a year ($500 million over six years) for UEFA to hit that $2 billion target. It’s notable that Univision and TUDN drew 2.6 million viewers for May’s final, so there are lots of viewers on that side as well. Here’s more from Smith on what’s ahead with the Spanish-language bidding:
The Union of European Football Associations, or UEFA, had been seeking about $2 billion over six years for the English- and Spanish-language rights combined, but decided to hold off on selling Spanish rights because the streaming market for that audience is still in its early days, the people said. TelevisaUnivision Inc., which currently owns the Spanish-language rights, launched a new streaming service called Vix+ in July. Meanwhile, its rival, Telemundo, plans to start a content hub on Peacock, the streaming service owned by its parent, Comcast Corp.
So that will be worth keeping an eye on. But for now, we know where the English-language rights are going, and we know what Paramount is paying for them. We’ll see how that bet works out for them.
Update: Here’s a statement from CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus:
“UEFA has been a key driver for Paramount+ since our launch and we are thrilled to extend this successful partnership showcasing even more world-class soccer through the 2029-30 season, building on the incredible momentum we have created the past two years,” said Sean McManus, Chairman, CBS Sports. “UEFA is a perfect example of our differentiated strategy presenting marquee properties to drive and strengthen both our streaming and traditional linear businesses. This multiplatform approach allows us to leverage the power of Paramount Global to reach the broadest possible audience and elevate and grow the reach of UEFA in the United States. We look forward to continuing to provide soccer fans CBS Sports’ best-in class coverage that our viewers expect.”