The bidding for the next round of US TV and streaming rights to the UEFA Champions League is close to being completed, a source revealed to World Soccer Talk.
Our source understands that the TV networks bidding for the rights to broadcast the UEFA Champions League in the United States from 2018 to 2021 are FOX Sports, ESPN, Turner Sports and NBC Sports.
The surprise name in those networks is Turner Sports, which owns TNT and TBS. Turner also runs NBA TV for the National Basketball Association. On top of that, Turner Sports is the owner of Bleacher Report, the popular sports website that could significantly expand its reach were it to acquire the streaming rights to the biggest soccer club competitions in the world.
FOX Sports is the current rights-holder to the UEFA Champions League in the United States. Prior to FOX Sports acquiring the rights, they were held by ESPN. And it’s quite possible that ESPN will have placed a substantial bid to try to bring the Champions League back to the Worldwide Leader in Sports given that ESPN lost the rights to the FIFA World Cup (for 2018 through 2026) to FOX Sports.
While the UEFA Champions League rights would complement NBC’s coverage of the Premier League, there are a lot of questions about how serious NBC Sports would be about acquiring those rights given that it has a full plate of Premier League rights that it paid approximately $1 billion for.
Beginning with the 2018-19 season of the UEFA Champions League, the first under the new rights deal for the US, Champions League games will be scheduled at 1pm and 3pm ET kickoffs instead of the customary 2:45pm ET start times. The new kickoff times will allow broadcasters to televise double-headers of Champions League games instead of several games being played at the same time.
FOX Sports remains the favorite to win the rights to the UEFA Champions League.
An announcement is expected in the next few weeks to reveal who has won the rights to broadcast the 2018-19 to 2020-21 seasons of the competition.