While we’re still a couple of weeks away from the end of the first round of bidding, a pair of favorites for the next round of UEFA Champions League rights may be emerging.
The bidding for the rights, which begin with the 2024-25 campaign, started last month. At the time, it was reported that UEFA was accepting both three and six-year bids, and that the federation’s goal was $2 billion in total over a six year pact (which would come out to somewhere in the neighborhood of $330 million per year, more than twice the $150 million per season being paid currently by CBS and Univision).
In that story, Bloomberg reported that UEFA had discussed the Champions League rights with all of the usual suspects on the American sports scene. Today over at the New York Post, Andrew Marchand reported similar details, but noted that two parties could be viewed as the early favorites: current rightsholder CBS and Amazon, who just struck a pact with UEFA for Champions League rights in the UK starting in 2024.
Marchand notes that both parties “could be the most aggressive” for the Champions League’s rights, in part because “both need a major soccer property in the United States.” While that’s more true for Amazon than CBS, the latter does at least have Italy’s Serie A along with a hodgepodge of other rights, including the NWSL, various Concacaf national team matches, and the top flight leagues in Scotland, Brazil, and Argentina.
However, that could work in the favor of CBS and Amazon because they’re not paying through the nose for other competitions. NBC signed a massive new deal with the Premier League. Apple tied itself to MLS for the next decade. ESPN is paying an exorbitant amount for La Liga, along with much less for the Bundesliga and various other competitions. Fox has deals with both FIFA and UEFA for national team tournaments and qualifiers. Would any of those companies want to add another high-priced soccer property to their rights inventory? The Champions League is surely a valuable property, but adding it to a portfolio that already includes a set of expensive soccer rights might be a harder sell.
The first round of bids are due August 15th, and we’ll go from there. But no matter where the rights end up, there will be a significant streaming component involved due to the significant amount of matches in each Champions League campaign (not to mention the Europa and Europa Conference League), and I think that could tip the balance in favor of companies with robust streaming platforms (which, to be fair, is most of the bidders).