The National Women’s Soccer League on Thursday announced new broadcast deals worth $240 million over four years, a sum that could transform the league and allow it to re-establish itself as the best in the world.
The deals are with CBS, ESPN, Amazon and Scripps (which owns the ION Network). Those four networks will collectively broadcast 118 games, a four-fold increase on the NWSL’s previous deal with CBS exclusively.
But the big news is the value of the deal, which will net the league $60 million per season, 40 times more than the previous deal, which was worth $1.5 million annually.
Without a significant TV deal in the past, NWSL revenues lagged, and tight limits on spending remained in place. The league’s salary cap and restrictions on player movement, among other factors, deterred foreign stars, many of whom chose to go to or remain in Europe.
The new broadcast deals, and the resultant revenue, should allow the NWSL to significantly raise both the minimum and maximum salary limits, which in turn will improve the lives of fringe players and attract more elite ones.
If it does, that will have a cascading effect, including on the U.S. women’s national team. As currently constructed, the NWSL “doesn’t offer enough diversity to [U.S. players] in terms of playing against different styles,” as incoming USWNT coach Emma Hayes wrote this summer. If the NWSL becomes a melting pot of top worldly talent, that could change.
For fans, meanwhile, the deals come with pros and cons. The main downside: With multiple subscriptions now required to watch the league, fandom will be more costly.
The benefits, though, are many. Games will be more visible than ever before, and available to both cable subscribers and cord-cutters. Amazon Prime will broadcast 25 Friday games per season. ION will get a Saturday doubleheader each week, with matches beginning at 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET.
ESPN’s involvement is also a win for the league. And the NWSL championship game will remain on CBS for four more years.