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CBS ‘acquires Champions League rights’ in surprise move

CBS has won the English-language rights to the Uefa Champions League in the United States from the 2021-22 season through 2023-24 in a surprise development, according to multiple reports in the US.

Univision has, meanwhile, retained the Spanish-language rights for a second cycle. An official announcement is expected in the next two weeks.

CBS and Univision will pay between $140m (€136m) and $150m a season for the combined rights, according to reports, an increase on the $105m-a-year deal paid by current rights-holders Turner and Univision.

Games are due to be aired on the main CBS network, CBS Sports Network, and CBS’s subscription streaming service “All Access”, which costs $9.99 a month.

This Champions League would be the first major soccer property that CBS has landed since it aired the original North American Soccer League in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as the 1974 World Cup. CBSN, competing against several other networks with much more of an established soccer broadcast presence including ESPN, NBC, and Fox, also briefly covered the revived NASL in 2016.

Turner is in its second season airing the Champions League on TNT, but most of the matches through the round of 16 are on Bleacher Report’s over-the-top streaming service B/R Live. Last season’s final between Liverpool FC and Tottenham Hotspur averaged 1.5m viewers on TNT, down from 2m that watched the 2018 final on Fox.

During the previous cycle (2015-16 to 2017-18), rights-holder Fox Sports sub-licensed selected live rights to ESPN.

There is a separate but simultaneous US sales process for the rights to cover the Europa League and the new third-tier Europa Conference League covering the 2021-22 to 2023-24 cycle.

The US market was the first in which the Team Marketing agency issued an invitation to submit offers for broadcast rights in the new cycle.

Meanwhile, Uefa is reportedly trying to bring the 2024 Champions League final to the United States, with MetLife Stadium in New Jersey standing as the preferred venue.