Although UEFA and MLS rights are changing hands, ESPN demonstrated its continued commitment to soccer this week, announcing extensions for three separate packages, all of which will center around ESPN+.
The service will continue to broadcast English Football League competitions including the EFL Carabao Cup, as well as Spain’s Copa del Rey and Supercopa events, and Germany’s DFB-Pokal tournament. ESPN+ already had ties to properties in each country, with FA Cup, LaLiga and Bundesliga rights.
“What really has worked for us and continued to work for us is that week-in, week-out coverage, so that round-by-round domestic coverage mixed in with these cups, looking at data,” ESPN senior director for programming and acquisitions Sonia Gomez said in an interview. “Maybe the club football space makes a little bit more sense for us.”
ESPN+, which will soon cost $10/month or $100/year, has more than 22 million subscribers.
ESPN’s renewals with the Royal Spanish Football Federation and the German Football Association will run through 2027 and 2026, respectively. The EFL tie-up will be shorter, however, ending in 2024 as the league prepares to align its domestic and international rights contract.
That is also what Major League Soccer did before signing a novel deal with Apple that will add yet another service for soccer fans to consider as they track the global game. ESPN and FOX are still discussing ways to continue airing some MLS games each year.
For its readers, World Soccer Talk put together a guide on how to watch various competitions this year. The downloadable PDF runs 28 pages and mentions more than 20 channels, sites, and services covering games. And none of them are Amazon, which is reportedly among the frontrunners for the UEFA Champions League rights currently on the market.
“Just the market and the landscape itself, the growth and the change in the last—I would say four years but even the last two years—has been kind of crazy,” Gomez said.
American fans may be more interested in checking out different leagues this fall as they track U.S. players ahead of the 2022 World Cup. The EFL’s Championship leads all international competitions with eight national team players, while the Bundesliga and LaLiga currently employ five and four, respectively.
Not every Championship game will be on ESPN+, but there will be 147 regular-season matches available and 182 EFL matches total, up from 125 last season.
(This story corrected the number of ESPN + subscribers to more than 22 million, not 20 million, in the fourth paragraph.)