CBS acquires Uefa Champions League rights two years early after Turner opts out

CBS has picked up the English-language rights to the Uefa Champions League in the United States two years early after current rights-holder Turner Sports called time on its deal.

Last November, in a surprise development, CBS secured rights to the Champions League from the 2021-22 season through 2023-24.

However, CBS will now broadcast Europe’s flagship club soccer competition from August, in time for the conclusion of the 2019-20 season, as well as the 2020-21 campaign. It means that CBS will have rights to the Champions League for more than four seasons.

The move was officially confirmed by parent company ViacomCBS on July 9.

“This is a landmark acquisition for CBS as we add the world’s most popular sport to our extensive portfolio of marquee properties,” said CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus.

“We’re excited to be the new home of the Uefa club competitions and looking forward to showcasing the best soccer in the world with a first-class presentation serving both the passionate and casual soccer fans, starting in August. Using a multi-platform approach across our broadcast, cable and digital assets, this partnership will leverage the power of ViacomCBS and CBS Sports to elevate and grow Uefa’s reach in the United States.”

CBS has also gained the rights to the second-tier Uefa Europa League, new third-tier Uefa Europa Conference League and the Uefa Super Cup. All games will be streamed on the CBS All Access subscription service, with select games on linear television.

Further details about CBS’s 2019-20 coverage, including platforms and announcers, will be announced in the coming weeks. Selected matches will appear on CBS Sports Network, it was announced.

The latter stages of the Champions League are being held in Lisbon this year in the wake of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

The move comes after Turner Sports called time on its deal with Uefa two years early after the B/R Live streaming platform, which the broadcaster had hoped to enhance, was folded into the Bleacher Report app. Turner’s remaining Uefa rights were also considered somewhat redundant after CBS had already acquired Champions League rights from the 2021-22 season.

It has not been disclosed how much CBS will pay for its new rights. However, it seems clear that Uefa had been extremely keen to find a US broadcaster in time for next month’s tournament finale, indicating that CBS secured a favorable deal.

“We had a very productive series of conversations and got the deal done relatively easily,” McManus told The Hollywood Reporter.

According to multiple reports, CBS will broadcast the draws for the latter stages of this year’s Champions League and Europa League on July 10 on its CBS All Access and CBS Sports HQ streaming platforms.

“The addition of all Uefa Champions League, Uefa Europa League and Uefa Europa Conference League matches is a game changer for CBS All Access’ growing lineup of sports programming,” said Marc DeBevoise, the chief digital officer of ViacomCBS. “This partnership marks a major step in our service’s expansion into exclusive sports content, and we’re thrilled to deliver more than 300 Uefa matches each season, along with the highly anticipated resumption and completion of the current Uefa Champions League and Uefa Europa League seasons, directly to our subscribers and the clubs’ loyal supporters. Additionally, we are excited about the young, diverse audience that these matches will bring to all of our platforms, especially as we embark on the expansion of CBS All Access with content from across ViacomCBS.”

In a move which underlines the network’s growing commitment to soccer in the US, CBS secured the domestic rights to the National Women’s Soccer League in a three-year deal earlier this year.

It has paid off already. The opening game of the NWSL Challenge Cup was the most-watched match in league history, with an average of 572,000 viewers on the main CBS television network.