As first reported by Gerry Smith at Bloomberg, CBS Sports (also CBS/Viacom/Paramount) renewed its English-language rights to broadcast the UEFA Champions League for the next six years. The deal also includes the rights to UEFA’s other club competitions, the Europa League and Europa Conference League.
The broadcaster fended off interest from Amazon. Amazon did secure a portion of the UK market rights for UEFA club competitions in a similar deal. The total price tag hovers around $1.5 billion. This number represents a substantial jump in a per-year basis compared to CBS’s previous deal with UEFA.
CBS’s renewal of the UEFA Champions League solidifies UEFA’s recent growth in the US market via CBS. That growth stems from matches airing on CBS Sports Network, CBS over-the-air. Now, the broadcaster has eight more total years with the various properties, ending at the conclusion of the 2029/30 season. That is a full decade removed from when CBS assumed the rights. That started in the middle of the knockout stages of the 2019/20 campaign.
As detailed briefly, UEFA has many reasons to be pleased with CBS Sports. Also, UEFA had doubts about changing course yet again and how that may affect the property’s growth. Any association with Amazon and the Prime Video streaming service has upside. Yet, the potential of stalling the UEFA momentum with another broadcaster change was a risk. CBS is the safer call, and it is almost certainly the one right call for UEFA.
Significance for Paramount+
Paramount+ relies on its UEFA club matches as an entry point for new sign-ups and sustained subscriptions. It is the one-stop-shop for soccer fans seeking content related to UEFA club competitions in English. This fuels the growth for the platform, while also providing fans a consistent service. There, fans of European soccer can not only find matches. Paramount+ also opens the door to highlight packages and magazine programs.
“UEFA has been a key driver for Paramount+ since our launch and we are thrilled to extend this successful partnership showcasing even more world-class soccer through the 2029-30 season, building on the incredible momentum we have created the past two years,” said Sean McManus, Chairman, CBS Sports. “UEFA is a perfect example of our differentiated strategy presenting marquee properties to drive and strengthen both our streaming and traditional linear businesses. This multiplatform approach allows us to leverage the power of Paramount Global to reach the broadest possible audience and elevate and grow the reach of UEFA in the United States. We look forward to continuing to provide soccer fans CBS Sports’ best-in class coverage that our viewers expect.”
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Champions League coverage in the US
Prior to CBS’s takeover in 2019/20, the Champions League was a niche sporting property in the United States. Both FOX Sports and Turner Sports used the property to provide live programming for their cable channels on midweek afternoons. However, the average viewership and interest in the competition failed to grow. Meanwhile, general interest in soccer did rise during that period from 2009 to 2020 when FOX and Turner held the rights.
Back in 2009, when FOX started its Champions League broadcasts, the Champions League was the premier soccer property on US television. However, in the period that followed, the Premier League soared behind UEFA competitions in terms of domestic interest. In fact, statistics argue that MLS can surpass the Champions League in terms of American popularity, as well.
CBS’s approach to broadcasting the Champions League is clearly a winner. The broadcaster married the European expertise in covering the competition to an outstanding studio production. Studio crews are something CBS has a reputation of doing well regardless of sports. Plus, CBS’s commitment to putting knockout stage games on the over-the-air channel led to a huge surge in ratings. Moreover, it led to a general spike in conversation about the UEFA Champions League.
Additionally, CBS’ Sports Score! whip-around show took a successful American sports idea and applied it to UEFA. Fans can watch highlights from eight games as they happen, growing interest in the competition and sport for neutrals. Simply put, the CBS approach helped grow the competition and the visibility of other UEFA club competitions.
CBS renews UEFA Champions League deal
A large part of CBS’ success in broadcasting UEFA club competitions has been a combination of expertise in the studio combined with edginess on air. For many viewers, CBS struck the right balance with this. It is something the broadcaster made unique to this property. CBS Sports covers other soccer properties it has the rights to differently. Other broadcasters will not operate in this way.
For example, ESPN has the reputation of applying an “ESPN treatment” to any property. It creates a consistent look and feel between everything it broadcasts.
The unique style of CBS’ approach to broadcasting UEFA club competitions may not be for everyone. Clearly, it pleases UEFA and yielded growth in interest within the United States.
The broadcaster now has eight more years to cement upward growth trajectory. Consequently, this benefits not only the sport, but CBS’s own platforms. Paramount+, CBS Sports Network and CBS over-the-air all can reap the rewards if this trend continues.