Jul 11, 2022 - Economy

U.S. TV rights for Champions League expected to double in value

Illustration of a soccer ball on a soccer pitch with a dollar sign line

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) and European Club Association (ECA) launched a tender offer Monday morning for the lucrative U.S. broadcast and streaming rights for the Champions League, one of the most prestigious football tournaments in the world.

Why it matters: The bids are expected to top $2 billion for a six-year contract beginning in 2024, doubling their current value of around $150 million per year to at least $300 million per year, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

  • Currently, Paramount — the parent company to CBS — and Univision, hold the rights, and pay roughly $150 million per year, the sources tell Axios.

Details: Representatives from UEFA, ECA, and Relevent Sports Group, which is running the bidding process, have met with nine major media companies about U.S. bids, including Disney/ESPN, NBCU/Telemundo, Peacock, Warner Bros. Discovery, Fox, Univision, Apple, Amazon and DAZN,

  • Bids are due for review August 15th. A decision is expected shortly thereafter, before the 2022/2023 season begins.
  • Rights could be split between two networks, which would both get streaming and linear TV rights, the sources said. Amazon and BT Sport split the rights in the U.K.
  • Bloomberg first reported the story and details of the deal.

Between the lines: The Champions League, which features the top European soccer clubs vying to be crowned the European champion, will feature a new format that's more palatable to U.S. broadcasters.

  • The number of teams competing will increase from 32 to 36, yielding more matches for media companies to air.
  • It will also run on a continuous schedule between September and May that will reduce subscriber churn on streaming services. Previously, the League would break from Christmas to February.

Be smart: The Champions League is one of the last high-profile sports rights auctions remaining for the next few years, aside from NFL's Sunday Ticket, another six-year deal that is expected to be announced this fall.

  • ESPN struck an 8-year $1.4 billion deal with Spanish soccer league La Liga last year, making most matches available on streaming via ESPN+.
  • NBCUniversal re-signed a 6-year deal with the Premier League last year for a reported $2.7 billion.

The big picture: There's been a huge uptick of interest in soccer in the U.S. in the past few years, and that interest is only expected to increase when the FIFA World Cup comes to the states in 2026.

  • A record 5.36 million people in the U.S. watched the 2022 UEFA Champions League final between Liverpool F.C. and Real Madrid CF in May.
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