Just a couple of weeks ago, Turner Sports made the decision to opt out of their UEFA Champions League rights deal a season early. What would happen to the Champions League (and Europa League) rights for the 2020-21 campaign in the US before CBS Sports took over for the 2021-22 tournament was then unknown, as was the fate of the remainder of the 2019-20 campaign.
Now, it appears we have an answer. According to a report from World Soccer Talk, CBS Sports will indeed begin their coverage early and will air the rest of the 2019-20 tournament (four second-leg matches from the Round of 16, and the one-legged quarterfinals, semifinals, and final) while also also picking up the rights to the 2020-21 campaign. The CBS coverage begins on Friday with the draws for the remainder of the Champions League and Europa League, which will air on CBS All Access and CBS Sports HQ.
According to a World Soccer Talk source, CBS Sports will broadcast the UEFA Champions League and Europa League draw this Friday on CBS All Access and CBS Sports HQ via a stream live from Nyon in Switzerland. Coverage of the draw for the latter rounds of this season’s UEFA Champions League and Europa League will begin Friday at 5:45AM ET with a preview of the draw, followed by the UEFA Champions League draw that will begin at 6AM ET. The draw for the UEFA Europa League will then begin at 7AM ET.
It’s currently unknown whether or not matches over the remainder of this year’s Champions League and Europa League will be paywalled on CBS All Access, or if they’ll air on CBS Sports Network or the CBS broadcast network. Given that the Champions League quarterfinal and semifinal matches will take place on weekday afternoons, it seems unlikely they’ll be on broadcast TV. However, with half of the Round of 16 matches airing on Saturday, August 8th and the final airing on Sunday, August 23rd, it wouldn’t come as a complete shock to see them air on the CBS mothership.
As for the Europa League, those matches all take place during the week (aside from one semifinal, set to take play on Sunday, August 16th), so CBS All Access seems like the best possible home for them.
Just before the live sports world shut down, CBS announced a TV deal with the NWSL. Their initial coverage plans were scuttled thanks to the pandemic, but the CBS broadcast network aired the first match of the NWSL Challenge Cup on June 27th, and will air the tournament’s final match on July 26th, with the rest behind the All Access paywall. CBS will now be floating from NWSL coverage right into Champions League and Europa League coverage with only a small break, making the network a sudden hotbed of soccer coverage in America.
All in all, this does seem like the best move for UEFA, CBS, and American soccer fans. Sure, we’re going to have to pay for a streaming service to watch the rest of this season’s Champions League and all of next season’s, but we already needed a B/R Live subscription to watch most matches in this year’s tournament, and would have needed an All Access subscription anyway in the fall of 2021.
For the record, an ad-supported CBS All Access plan runs $5.99/month, the same as ESPN+ after the expected August price increase. An ad-free version of All Access is $9.99/month, but if you don’t plan on watching anything other than live sports, that doesn’t seem worth the extra investment. B/R Live runs $9.99/month, or you could pay $2.99 on a per match basis.