Any networks interested in the NWSL’s media rights will now get their crack at the league.
During a Thursday press conference, NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman confirmed that the exclusive negotiating window with current rightsholder CBS had lapsed. 2023 is the final year of the NWSL’s deal with CBS, which pays a reported $4.5 million over the life of the three-year deal.
Per the Sports Business Journal, the NWSL is also looking for a one-year bridge deal for international streaming rights in 2023.
In addition to addressing its media rights future beyond 2023, a spokesperson said the league is also seeking a one-season stopgap deal for international streaming following the expiration of its deal with Amazon-owned Twitch at the end of the 2022 season. The Twitch deal included international streaming of all matches, as well as domestic streaming for a select package of games, which will be shifted to Paramount+ this season.
I’m really going to go out on a limb here, but I’m pretty confident the NWSL gets more than $1.5 million per season in the league’s next rights deal.
There are still plenty of questions regarding the rights deal and what the NWSL wants. Does the league want to bundle linear and streaming rights and go with one partner? That would suit companies like CBS, ESPN, and NBC, which all have robust steaming platforms airing live soccer. If the NWSL is willing to split the rights, that could open the door for Fox, with its multiple cable networks but no DTC streaming offering. Furthermore, how important is the company’s sports background? Because if reach, which Berman said was important to the league, matters most to the NWSL, the newly launched Scripps Sports and its ION Television could be an appealing partner.
I also wouldn’t count Warner Bros. Discovery, the new home of US Soccer, out of the bidding. They’ll be airing the USWNT throughout the year, have two cable networks that could conceivably air games, and also have a streaming service (two now, but theoretically one when the 2024 NWSL season begins) that could air matches.