It’s been interesting to watch the growing importance of soccer in general and the UEFA Champions League in particular to CBS, Paramount+, and parent Paramount Global. When CBS won Champions League rights (beginning in 2021) back in November 2019, they were a surprising victor, as they hadn’t aired much soccer over the past four decades. But CBS went on to even start their coverage a year early after Turner asked out, and they’ve put together a solid group of talent, an impressive overall presentation, a significant broadcast network presence, and an investment in on-location coverage.
That’s all paid dividends. CBS’ coverage of this year’s final drew the best English-language numbers ever in the U.S., and earlier this month, Paramount beat out Amazon for a further six-year Champions League deal, with CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus saying the Champions League was the third-largest driver of Paramount+ subscriptions and retention, behind only 1883 and the NFL. Paramount has also used the Champions League as a launching point for other soccer coverage, including Serie A, the NWSL, the Scottish Professional Football League, top Brazilian and Argentinian leagues, and more.
Paramount is also doing quite a lot on the documentary side in the Stories From The Beautiful Game collection. That includes The Only (on U.S. women’s team star Briana Scurry), Sir Alex Ferguson: Never Give In, and Black And White Stripes: The Juventus Story. On Wednesday, they announced another documentary, Destination Paris, which covers soccer journalist and CBS analyst Guillem Balagué’s travels through Europe around last year’s Champions League. It will premiere in the U.S. on Paramount+ on Sept. 6. Here’s more on that from a release:
In DESTINATION PARIS, through his months-long travels, award-winning soccer journalist and CBS Sports analyst Guillem Balagué offers an exclusive and intimate look at a season in which the competition for the UEFA Champions League, the world’s most prestigious club soccer tournament, returns to its pulsating best. Off the pitch, however, Balagué peels back the curtain for a look into how many of Europe’s elite teams were not only managing radical changes within their clubs but were forced to confront social, economic and political strains within their communities and the continent’s largest armed conflict in decades.
With cameras in tow, Balagué details the season’s biggest stories, from life without Lionel Messi at Barcelona to Real Madrid’s stunning rally to a record 14th title.
Balagué also delves into the responses within European soccer to Russia’s full-scale military invasion of neighboring Ukraine, including UEFA moving the Champions League Final to Paris from St. Petersburg. Balagué carefully brings the audience into these turbulent stories with exclusive interviews. Ukraine’s Shakhtar Donetsk owner Serhiy Palkin and director of football operations Darijo Srna, Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modrić and Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp are among the many interviewees.
“Destination Paris is an opportunity to take fans on a journey that not only gives a behind-the-scenes look at the biggest clubs in the world but also discovers areas of European soccer that typically aren’t in the spotlight,” said executive producer Pete Radovich. “Getting to the heart of Shakhtar Donetsk’s journey escaping Ukraine and Guillem Balagué telling stories of lesser-known clubs like FC Sheriff in Moldova showcases how culturally impactful the UEFA Champions League is on a global scale.”
And here’s a trailer for the documentary:
This is an interesting concept for a documentary, and the 2021-22 Champions League season certainly was a notable one to cover this way, especially around the impacts from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This documentary is also releasing on the first day of the 2022-23 Champions League group stage, so it’s a good way for those interested to look back at last season and get ready for the new season. And it adds to that collection of soccer documentaries on Paramount+, and to Paramount’s overall soccer focus.