The NFL will reach even more viewers in 2024 through new broadcast deals with ESPN, CBS Sports, Prime Video and Scripps Sports, the league announced Thursday. Here’s what you need to know:
- The NWSL has agreed four-year deals with each partner, which will show at least 20 matches each on their platforms next season.
- Fans will be able to stream regular season games on Friday nights on Prime Video and watch two prime-time games on Saturdays on Scripps’ ION network.
- A package of regular season games will air on CBS and stream on Paramount+, with CBS Sports showing additional games.
- ESPN will show the matches across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes, as well as streaming them on ESPN+ in English and Spanish.
The deal is done.
The game has changed. 👏
– National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) November 9, 2023
More about deals
- The agreements will double the number of cameras for games, which will also help with video replay review efforts.
- The remainder of the regular season schedule will be part of a direct-to-consumer package produced and distributed by the NWSL.
- ION will broadcast the 2024 NWSL Draft in January. A date for the project has not yet been announced.
- ION will also kick off its doubleheader on Saturday with a studio show at 7pm ET. Games will start at 7:30 PM ET and 10 PM ET.
Where can I watch the qualifiers?
- Prime Video and CBS will broadcast one quarterfinal each, while ESPN/ABC will broadcast the other two quarterfinal games.
- ESPN/ABC and CBS will each have a semifinal matchup.
- CBS will continue to broadcast the championship game in prime time and make it available for streaming on Paramount+. (The league’s three-year media rights agreement with CBS expires at the end of this year.)
The trades are a win for the NWSL
Given the media rights landscape, the $60 million per year combined across all new partnerships for the four-year deal should be considered a huge win and improvement for the NWSL — while not being trapped by very long (compare to 10-MLS) one-year terms with Apple , or US Soccer’s eight-year deal with Warner Bros. Discovery Sports).
This deal is a stepping stone that will hopefully be even greater the next time the NFL heads to the market to begin its next term after the 2027 World Cup. – Meg Linehan, senior writer on women’s football
Challenges for viewers and fans
One major challenge will be changing viewing habits among the NWSL faithful. Spreading games across multiple networks to this extent will need a lot of promotion and investment from the league and all of its broadcast partners. The league’s news release addresses this directly, noting that all four broadcasters have made “significant commitments to market and promote the NWSL and, most importantly, to market each other’s scheduled broadcasts.”
Ultimately, it’s a huge step forward with a lot of money coming in and a huge increase in games being shown on TV. – Linehan
Thursday’s news also revealed another expansion to the NWSL playoffs. Currently, half of the teams in the league advance to the playoffs, with the top two teams advancing to the semifinals and four teams starting the first round of the playoffs with two quarterfinal games. With the introduction of Bay FC and Utah Royals FC, eight teams will participate in the playoffs – and the bye week has apparently been dropped from the format, with four quarterfinal matches split across three broadcast partners.
That means eight of the 14 teams will advance to the postseason in 2024 — but hopefully that number will continue in the next round of expansion in 2026 when Boston and another team join the league. The 2023 season and playoffs showed parity in the league, with Decision Day a real highlight of the format. Expanding too much risks undermining the quality and importance of the regular season. – Linehan
What about the rest of the regular season games?
Listen, the news is generally good, but there’s one detail here that raises some questions: The NWSL hasn’t been able to get its entire stock together in these four partnerships with broadcasters.
It’s hard to know if a “direct-to-consumer” package ultimately means it might be part of a paywalled viewing platform; International feeds have historically been available to watch for free across the league. There’s another promise from the league here too: increased production quality of broadcasts, thanks to “increased and consolidated investment across all platforms.”
The NWSL knows it can’t afford a drop in quality between matches that might be broadcast on ABC versus their website – so while they may have left a little money on the table by not selling some regular season stock, the theory is It’s that the fans shouldn’t do that. You don’t notice the difference. – Linehan
what are they saying
“The NWSL is the shining star and leading property that we have,” CBS Sports President Sean McManus said when looking at the network’s commitment to women’s sports, which includes the WNBA, LPGA and NCAA women’s basketball.
NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman said knowing international rights is a big priority for the league, knowing there is a global audience for the game. She also said the league’s talent pool should be showcased globally.
(Photo: Peter Casey/USA Today)
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