On Wednesday, CBS announced their broadcast schedule for the remainder of the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League and Europa League, whose rights they acquired earlier this month when Turner Sports opted out midway through a three-year deal.
The schedule features just three matches on television, with the rest all airing on CBS All Access. Furthermore, those three matches on TV are on CBS Sports Network as opposed to the CBS broadcast network. Those three matches are the second legs of Manchester City-Real Madrid on August 7th and Barcelona-Napoli on August 8th and the Final on August 23rd, all airing at 3 PM ET.
While this is clearly less than ideal, I beg you not to be surprised or outraged at this turn of events. The deal for CBS to pick up the rights to the remainder of the tournaments this year progressed very quickly, as Turner only opted out at the end of June. CBS announced their deal with UEFA, which includes their takeover of next year’s tournaments from Turner and the full slate from 2021-24. CBS won those rights last November.
In their release, CBS noted that the quick turnaround prevented them from airing matches on broadcast TV, as they wanted. Later in the release, CBS touted that starting with the 2020-21 tournaments, more matches would be on broadcast TV.
Due to the short turnaround and with the CBS Television Network already having previous commitments at the same time of the tournament Final on Sunday, August 23, ViacomCBS will present the Final across multiple platforms on both CBS Sports Network and CBS All Access.
Beginning in October with the start of the 2020-2021 season and continuing throughout the 2023-2024 season, all matches will be available on CBS All Access, with select marquee matches also airing on the CBS Television Network. Over the length of the deal, ViacomCBS will feature the most UEFA matches ever on U.S. broadcast television, including every UEFA Champions League Final on the CBS Television Network beginning in May 2021.
CBS will air the PGA Championship on August 8th (the date of the second legs of Barca-Napoli and Bayern-Chelsea) and 9th (an off day), and the start time for the CBS coverage on Saturday conflicts with the Champions League start times, forcing the move to cable. As for the conflict on the Champions League Final day, that’s also golf-related, thanks to the network’s coverage of The Northern Trust.
As for the mid-week games not airing anywhere on TV…yeah, that’s not ideal. I don’t think you need to be a rocket scientist to realize that a potential Barcelona-Bayern Munich tie on Friday would draw much more interest than an episode of Tiki & Tierney. The good news is that CBS is offering a free month-long trial of All-Access, so you’ll only have to start shelling out for it next year.
But in case you don’t mind Spanish language coverage, TUDN has the rights in the US, and has provided plenty of coverage over the last year and a half. I highly doubt there will be any difficulties watching games on those networks during both the Champions League and Europa League tournaments in August.
All in all folks, it is what it is. As the cost for live sports rights for increases and cord-cutting accelerates, networks need to find new ways to make money from the sports they’re paying for. Paywalls aren’t going away any time soon, and when the rights for various leagues aren’t all under the same umbrella, you’re going to need to subscribe to more services if you want to watch every match. Even NBC Sports, thought of as the gold standard in soccer coverage in America, has been relying more on paywalls with NBC Sports Gold and now, Peacock.
There are only so many possible timeslots and networks to air sports. We’re at a point where it’s more surprising if you *don’t* need a subscription service to watch live games each week. Yeah, it sucks that you have to pay on top of your cable package, but it’s a better option than not having access to the games at all.