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SHOCK REPORT: CBS Sports wins U.S. rights to the Champions League

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Well. Huh. This is interesting.

AAF: MAR 24 San Diego Fleet at Arizona Hotshots Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Well, at least we won’t have to pray that Turner picks Bayern Munich anymore.

According to a report from SportsBusinessDaily, CBS Sports has agreed to pick up the rights to broadcast the UEFA Champions League beginning in 2021, when the current deal with Turner/Bleacher Report runs out.

Sources from SBD say the deal will run from 2021 until spring 2024 and is valued at $150 million. Turner paid about $50 million less when they signed their deal last season.

Unlike Turner, who chose to broadcast games exclusively on TNT and then cover all other games on B/R Live, CBS will put games on both its main broadcast channel and CBS Sports Network. CBS also has a streaming service, CBS All Access, that will show remaining games.

The Spanish-language broadcasts will be remaining on Univision, as they have for the last few years.

The report did not mention the rights for the UEFA Europa League.


Reaction

I cannot stress this enough. From an outsider’s perspective, THIS. MAKES. NO. SENSE.

The report states that Turner attempted to re-bid for the tournament, but their bid was too low. It also says that ESPN made an attempt to bid for both the Spanish and English language rights to be broadcast on their linear channels and ESPN+. NBC Sports submitted a bid with Telemundo (whom they own), and Fox put forward a bid that was reportedly “not as aggressive” as others.

It needs to be said that this will be CBS’s first foray into European soccer. In their entire history as a sports entity, CBS has broadcast only two soccer leagues: the National Professional Soccer League (which existed for one season) and the original incarnation of NASL for exactly four years. They also broadcast the 1974 World Cup in Germany, which didn’t feature the United States.

For our readers outside the US, CBS has traditionally broadcast only four sports:

  1. Golf, especially The Masters, the PGA Championship and most rights to the PGA Tour
  2. The NFL, mostly the AFC, as well as the last Super Bowl
  3. NCAA Football, especially the SEC (the Premier League of College Football conferences)
  4. The NCAA Basketball Tournament a.k.a. March Madness

The Super Bowl is on rotation between CBS, NBC, and Fox so their only consistent money-maker each year was March Madness. But starting in 2011, they began an agreement with Turner’s vast array of networks (like the oh-so-profitable TruTV) to cover other games, especially in the tournament’s first few days.

But now, CBS will get a vast array of soccer fans in the United States tuning into their networks and watching games.

There are pros and cons to this deal, like all deals

Pros

  • IT’S NOT ON TURNER ANYMORE!!!!!!!!!!
  • We now have a fourth network in America (after ESPN, NBC, and Fox) that cares about soccer in the US, which can’t be bad
  • CBS has the ability to broadcast more games by adding a second channel, giving viewers better access

Cons

  • The network has no experience broadcasting soccer in the modern game. This means they will have to hire a whole slew of personnel, broadcasters, hosts, etc. This cannot be overstated. American sports networks have tried and failed in the past to have their typical broadcast teams call soccer, leaving bad impressions on everyone. If CBS wants to please the dedicated core following who will watch this, they must take these measures.
  • Outside of main broadcasting, CBS’s core product is online. Their sports news show, CBS Sports HQ is broadcast live, online, 24/7 for free. It has not been well received by audiences, as have most of their studio shows. So if you thought Bleacher Report’s studio show was tough to stomach, we may not get a big improvement (but lets hope we do).
  • If you thought ESPN+ was bad, CBS All Access is $9.99/month.

Overall, this just seems like an odd fit to me. For an analogy, CBS calling the Champions League is like BeIN Sport calling Big 10 Football. It jars with the network’s image, and they may be out of their element.

But, unlike Turner, they have time on their side. CBS now has a little over a year and a half to get themselves organized and prepared to call the biggest competition in club soccer. Let’s hope they take the appropriate measures and get this right.