When CBS secured the U.S. English language rights to UEFA Champions League in November for a three-year period starting in 2021, the network saw the deal as an opportunity to ramp up exclusive live sports programming available on CBS ALL Access – the company’s direct-to-consumer streaming service.
So when an opportunity to broadcast Europe’s top club tournaments a year earlier emerged, CBS jumped on it as another chance to further grow the service’s subscriber base.
“What we like about the [UEFA] audience, and we also like this with the NWSL too, is that we just see these audiences as a great fit for streaming,” said Jeff Gerttula, executive vice president and general manager of CBS Sports Digital. “It’s young, diverse, and passionate. It just plays well into what we think will translate into a subscription audience.”
According to ViacomCBS’ latest quarterly earnings in May, CBS All Access and the company’s other paid streaming service Showtime OTT have a combined 13.5 million subscribers. CBS declined to disclose data on recent subscriber growth following the additions of both the NWSL and UEFA competitions. However, it is “very happy” with the response to the NWSL Challenge Cup so far and sees ongoing growth potential for both properties to drive subscriber growth.titions.
CBS’s original agreement struck with the European soccer federation last fall was intended to begin in the 2021-2022 season. However, Turner Sports’ cancellation of its remaining contract in June, valued at around $60 million annually, led UEFA to approach CBS to quickly find another rights holder, CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus told The Hollywood Reporter.
Univision maintained the Spanish-language rights to the UEFA competitions, including the Europa League, through the spring of 2024. CBS and Univision are paying roughly $150 million combined per season to broadcast matches in the U.S., according to multiple reports.
With the Champions League returning next month, CBS now finds itself in a similar situation to earlier in the spring – when the network was quickly piecing together a broadcast roadmap for the NWSL Challenge Cup currently streaming on CBS ALL Access.
“We’re gonna look to deliver on what we think the expectations are going to be of a very passionate audience,” Gerttula said, adding that CBS is currently building out its shoulder programming for Champions League matches, which resumes August 7 in a single-elimination style tournament similar to the FIFA World Cup. Select matches will also air on CBS linear.
CBS broadcasted the quarter final draw for the UEFA Champions League on July 10 on CBS Sports HQ. The free OTT service will feature extensive highlight and analysis coverage for all UEFA competitions, including the Europa League, also set to begin next month.
Throughout CBS’s contract with UEFA, the network is expected to roll out several features for fans tuning in on CBS All Access. An ability to stream multiple games at once could be available as early as next month. Yet the primary focus is to provide reliable streams for audiences at launch.
CBS is not currently exploring price increases to CBS All Access, following UEFA’s new rights distribution agreement. The company continues to vet other live sports options it can add to the service to grow its subscriber base.
“We’re looking at everything for audiences that match well with the product” Gerttula said. “But there is nothing to disclose now. “
CBS All Access costs $4.99 per month with ads and is $9.99 commercial-free. Besides live sports, the service also features non-sports programming ranging from CBS originals to third-party titles.