Friday, November 10, 2023

New NWSL TV Deal

The National Women's Soccer League announced the details of their next TV deal yesterday. In effect, this is the league's first "real" media rights package as previous deals likely just covered the costs associated with producing and transmitting games.

The new deal: $60,000,000 per year (NWSL to cover production, rights fees, and marketing).

Networks: CBS Sports, ESPN, Amazon and Scripps Sports


1. 118 games will be aired across the networks.

# Games Breakdown
50 - ION TV (Scripps Sports)
27 - Amazon Prime
21 - CBS family of networks
20 - ESPN family

2. Missing Games: Future league streaming package to include missing games (154+playoffs)-118=36 games plus playoffs in 2024 if the league stays at 22 matches a year.

2a. Teams can seek out local TV deals for the missing games.

2b. The league plans to have a streaming service to catch the remaining games.

3. Interesting to me: It's listed as ESPN and not ABC/Disney. Halfway through this deal, it is expected that ESPN will break away from Disney so there may only be next year that ABC has games.


Let's break down the numbers a little bit...

$ Breakdown (in millions)
$25.4 - ION TV (Scripps Sports)
13.7 - Amazon Prime
10.7 - CBS family of networks
10.2 - ABC (ESPN family)

This works out to be about $500k per game value (what networks paid for each game). The direct comparison here might be MLS (domestic league). MLS has a deal worth $250m per year. They play 493 regular season games, that's also about $500k per game cost to Apple ($250m/493).

Simply put? A single game for both the NWSL and MLS are worth about the same. Inventory the obvious difference.

This makes sense as the NWSL pulled numbers close to MLS on broadcast TV over the last few years (400-500k average range on any given regular season week, according to Nielsen).

The reason I compare MLS to the NWSL is that they are both the "top" domestic leagues in the US. It's interesting that they pull around the same viewership numbers. The only differences that we can see is the NWSL has less inventory (smaller league) and the demographics watching the games (MLS has a better 18-49 demo).


This deal is important to the NWSL in that it stabilizes it a bit. Over the years the league has seen ups and downs and its share of controversy with ownership. The deal isn't forever so the networks are going to be paying close attention to what they can put together as far as production. MLS did well getting things going but when you have Apple behind you - well.

It will be incredibly important that the NWSL get production right. That's finding the right voices and showcasing the game and competition itself. In other words; Let the most popular sport on the planet be the main course. All the other stuff is just salad dressing.

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