ViacomCBS Strikes Deal to Show UEFA Soccer Matches
By Benjamin Mullin and Joshua Robinson
ViacomCBS Inc. landed the U.S. rights to show soccer matches
from the UEFA Champions League, the company said, a deal that adds
a popular live-sports property to its CBS All Access streaming
The four-year agreement, terms of which weren't disclosed, gives
ViacomCBS exclusive English-language rights to show Champions
League matches, including on its CBS broadcast network, the CBS
Sports cable network and CBS All Access, the company said. The deal
also covers two other competitions, the UEFA Europa League and UEFA
Europa Conference League.
The Champions League, which holds club soccer's most prestigious
tournament, was put on hold earlier this year when the coronavirus
pandemic swept across Europe, wiping out live sports and forcing
media companies to come up with alternative programming. AT&T
Inc.'s Turner Sports in June opted out of the last year of its deal
with European soccer's governing body, UEFA, allowing the league to
seek another U.S. media partner.
In June, UEFA announced that it would resume play in August with
an eight-team tournament held in Lisbon over two weeks. ViacomCBS's
deal with UEFA will allow the company to show those games,
featuring such teams as Bayern Munich and Manchester City, giving
its lineup a shot in the arm in the midst of a slowdown of big
The coronavirus pandemic forced the NCAA to cancel its annual
March Madness collegiate basketball tournament, which is a reliable
ratings driver for both CBS Sports and Turner Sports. The pandemic
has also created added uncertainty for the National Football League
season, a major staple of broadcast and cable TV.
A spokeswoman for ViacomCBS declined to comment on whether the
deal had a provision that allows the company to withhold rights
fees if an outbreak of coronavirus puts the UEFA matches on
The deal provides a popular live-sports property for CBS All
Access, which ViacomCBS has anointed as its flagship
direct-to-consumer streaming service.
"It's great timing for us as we embark on expanding CBS All
Access to be a cross-company streaming service for ViacomCBS," Marc
DeBevoise, the company's chief digital officer, said in an
ViacomCBS said earlier this year that it would put additional
shows from its cable networks and its Paramount movie studio on the
service as part of a bid to expand its subscriber base.
The company's streaming strategy doesn't solely rely on CBS All
Access. Earlier this month, ViacomCBS announced that it was
licensing some of its popular TV shows and movies to Comcast
Corp.'s NBCUniversal unit for its Peacock streaming service.
ViacomCBS said on its first-quarter earnings call that its
domestic streaming and digital-video revenue rose by over half
compared with the same period in the previous year.
U.S. television hasn't always been a happy home for the
Champions League. CBS will be the competition's third broadcaster
in five years, following challenging stints by Fox Corp.'s Fox
Sports and AT&T's Turner Sports. Fox Corp. and Wall Street
Journal parent News Corp share common ownership.
As both Fox Sports and Turner Sports discovered, the Champions
League can be a challenge to follow for American audiences, despite
the glitz of the sport's giants duking it out over 10 months to
become European champions.
The biggest struggle is that matches are played on Tuesday and
Wednesday nights in Europe, unlike most domestic league games,
which are played on weekends. On the East Coast of the U.S., that
puts the Champions League squarely in the middle of workday
Spokesmen for Turner Sports and Fox Sports declined to
ViacomCBS will also hope to match the cultural impact that
NBCUniversal has made in its coverage of the English Premier
League. Since taking over the rights to games from England's top
division in 2013, the broadcaster has become a model for how to
build a following for soccer in the U.S. NBCUniversal's six-year
contract with the Premier League, which runs through the 2021-22
season, is worth $1 billion.
Write to Benjamin Mullin at Benjamin.Mullin@wsj.com and Joshua
Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
July 08, 2020 20:44 ET (00:44 GMT)
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