NWSL secures groundbreaking $240 million media rights deals
The premier North American women’s football competition, the National Women’s Soccer League, has secured landmark domestic media rights agreements with ESPN, CBS, Amazon and Scripps, spanning the 2024 to 2027 seasons.
The NWSL, in collaboration with IMG and WME Sports agencies, finalised four-year contracts totalling $240 million, aiming for record-breaking distribution and revenue while embracing a mix of linear and digital streaming.
CBS, in its fourth year of partnership, retains the rights to the season finale. The new deal marks the end of an exclusive three-year contract with CBS Sports, which concluded after the November 11, 2023 NWSL Championship match – won 2-1 by Gotham FC over OL Reign on Sunday (AEDT).
The previous CBS deal, worth approximately $1.5 million annually, required the league to cover its production costs. In contrast, the new agreements will see production costs covered by the broadcast partners.
“These partnerships fundamentally change the game for our league and the players who take the pitch each week,” NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman said.
“On behalf of the NWSL, our owners, and players, I want to commend CBS Sports, ESPN, Prime Video and Scripps for investing in our league and affirmatively declaring to the marketplace that this league is exciting, valuable, and important.
“We have taken great care to ensure our games are discoverable by increasing our reach to expose new audiences to everything that makes our league special, without compromising the economic value of our product. This is the beginning of our future.”
Starting in 2024, 118 matches will be distributed across the platforms of the four broadcasters, with Amazon’s Prime Video featuring Friday night matches and Scripps’ ION network hosting Saturday night double-headers.
Prime Video will air 27 games per season, Scripps will broadcast 50 matches, CBS will air 21 games and ESPN will broadcast 20 matches across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes. ESPN+ will stream all matches in English and Spanish, with additional rights in Latin America.
The remaining regular-season matches will form part of a domestic direct-to-consumer package produced and distributed by the NWSL. For the expanded 2024 playoffs, Prime Video and CBS will cover one quarterfinal each, while ESPN/ABC will air the other two quarter-finals. CBS and ESPN/ABC will each broadcast a semi-final.
“On behalf of the NWSL, we have secured four game-changing, marquee partnerships that will help send the women’s game to new heights of viewership and fandom, growing domestic revenues for the league at a multiple of over 40x,” IMG executive vice president and head of Americas Hillary Mandel said.
“The NWSL’s new line-up of media partners is stepping up with significant rights fees, production investment, top-tier platforms, and impactful promotion. In lockstep with the NWSL, they are going to transform the ways in which fans can discover and engage with the games, assuring deserved exposure for these world-class athletes on the broadest stage.”
All four partners committed to extensive marketing and cross-promotion efforts, signalling a transformative era for the NWSL. The deals, spanning four years, align with plans to auction league rights after the 2027 Women’s World Cup.
The $240 million rights fee significantly surpasses earnings reported by the Women’s Super League in England. This multi-broadcaster approach contrasts with Major League Soccer’s 10-year exclusive deal with Apple.
The NWSL, gearing up for further expansion, will welcome San Jose-based Bay FC and Utah Royals to the competition next season, boosting the number of teams from 12 to 14. The league has also awarded franchise rights to Boston Unity Soccer Partners, set to join the NWSL in 2026.
— Utah Royals (@UtahRoyalsFC) November 8, 2023