In the biggest broadcast deal ever for any women’s sports league, the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) struck a record-breaking four-year TV rights deal with CBS Sports, ESPN, Prime Video and Scripps Sports.
The partners will combine to nationally broadcast 118 matches across partner platforms beginning in 2024—a massive increase from the 30 that will air in 2023, including Saturday’s upcoming championship match on CBS.
The deal is worth $60 million per year, for a cumulative value of $240 million over the course of the term, a source close to negotiations confirmed to Adweek. Endeavor’s IMG and WME Sports advised the NWSL and negotiated on its behalf.
“As a young league experiencing massive growth, we wanted to ensure all our games were accessible to our growing and diverse fan base,” Julie Haddon, the NWSL’s chief commercial officer and marketing officer, told Adweek. “These distribution deals ensure viewing options across both linear and streaming platforms every weekend.
“With each partner contributing significant brand investment to promote and cross-promote, we are able to showcase our exceptional league, clubs and athletes to both new and existing fans.”
The NWSL’s current three-year deal with CBS, worth $4.5 million total ($1.5 million annually), expires at the end of the year—and the league is paying for production costs. The new $240 million agreement marks an annual 3,900% increase in value.
“We have always focused on balancing revenue, reach and relevance, and these deals with these partners represent an unprecedented investment in women’s sports,” said Haddon. “We have a real opportunity to bring our game closer to our fans and brand sponsor partners in new and innovative ways.”
Before the CBS agreement, the NWSL had a string of short-term agreements with ESPN, A&E and Fox Sports.
The next comparable women’s league is the WNBA, which has agreements with Disney, Paramount, Amazon, Scripps, Facebook and Twitch. The deal with Disney is its largest, worth an estimated $27 million annually. But when that agreement expires in 2025, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert is targeting $100 million per year—still a far cry from the $250 million Major League Soccer rakes in annually.