Editor Note: ‘Early Entrants’ is a series of sports business ‘rumblings’ before the news breaks.
NWSL media rights negotiations for the 2020-2022 seasons are underway and it appears as if just about every major television broadcaster (see: ESPN, CBS, NBC, FOX, Turner & BeIN) will express interest in carrying league games. Rising fan interest (see: viewership for ESPN’s coverage of the championship game rose +43% YoY, attendance was up +22% YoY), strong sponsorship support for the women’s national team (see: advertisers spent +/- $100M on television spots during the USWNT’s most recent World Cup run) and the participation of stars like Megan Rapino, Alex Morgan and Marta (along with some of the Mexican National Team’s best players) should be enough for television programmers to recognize the value of the league and its standing amongst Women’s sports properties.
Fox (has World Cup), CBS (just got Champions League) and Turner (lost Champions League, but in the hunt for a tent pole soccer property to align with its European soccer offerings) would all seemingly make sense as a potential destination for the upstart league, but sources tell JohnWallStreet that ESPN (previously held the domestic NWSL linear rights and has existing rights to MLS, Serie A, Bundesliga, and FA Cup), NBC (has EPL rights, could put games on NBC, NBCSN, and NBC Gold) and beIN which seeks greater carriage and a beefing up of it domestic sports offering (currently programs LaLiga and French Ligue 1) should be considered early favorites to land broadcast rights to “arguably the best women’s sports league in the world.”
Fortuitous timing (see: there are simply not a lot of premium broadcast rights on the market this winter, the USWNT will play in the Olympics this summer) should position the NWSL to sign an advantageous deal (think: strong programming, marketing support and some new revenues).
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