Disney, NBCU, Amazon, Apple, More Pursuing Record Breaking UEFA Champions League Rights Deal
As international soccer has become increasingly popular in the United States, one of the world’s top football competitions is expected to double its rights fees.
According to Bloomberg News UEFA, the soccer governing body in Europe, is opening the bidding for the U.S. TV rights to the UEFA Champions League, its annual competition that features the best club teams in Europe. UEFA is eying a deal for six years and $2 billion, double the rights fees in the previous agreement.
Bidding is expected to open this week and continue through Aug. 15. Bloomberg added that UEFA has had “preliminary discussions” with pretty much every significant entity in the U.S. that holds or has bid on sports rights: Disney, Comcast, Paramount, Fox, Warner Bros. Discovery, Univision, DAZN, Amazon, and Apple.
Paramount currently holds the Champions League rights in the U.S., with Univision owning the Spanish-language rights. Many matches are shown on Paramount+, although the Champions League Final in May was broadcast on CBS, where it was watched by a record 2.8 million viewers.
According to Bloomberg, UEFA has made several changes to the format of the Champions League competition to make the TV rights more valuable. UEFA has relaxed a previous requirement that a certain number of matches be shown on traditional TV, indicating more streaming availability than was the case in the past. This change should allow streaming-only services like Prime Video and Apple TV+ to spend big on the rights.
Also, four teams have been added to the competition, bringing the total number of participants up to 36. Additionally, the schedule has been changed to place more matches in the month of January allowing for fewer overlapping matches, allowing platforms to maximize their value.
In early July, Amazon landed the streaming rights to the Champions League in England, beginning in 2024. The deal is a unique setup in which matches each Tuesday will feature a team from England.
Wherever the U.S. rights to the Champions League land, it will likely represent the latest sports rights deal to bring in significantly more money than the previous version.
Apple recently reached a deal to stream every Major League Soccer game for a decade, after previously adding a weekly baseball package. Viacom18 reportedly reached a $2.6 billion deal to stream Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket matches. Rights to Big Ten football games were expected to fetch more than $1 billion per year, and that was before UCLA and USC announced that they would be joining the conference.
The next big shoe to drop will be the NFL Sunday Ticket package, which the NFL commissioner confirmed last week will almost certainly be moving to some streaming service in 2023, with a decision to come prior to the start of the season this fall.