EXCLUSIVE: The US TV rights to the UEFA Champions League for seasons 2018 through 2021 have been acquired by Turner Sports and Univision in the United States, according to a World Soccer Talk source who is close to the situation.
FOX Sports, the current rights holder until the end of the 2017/18 season, lost the English-language TV rights to Turner Sports in a very competitive bidding process that included ESPN. Meanwhile, the Spanish-language rights were acquired by Univision Deportes.
World Soccer Talk understands that ESPN placed bids for both the English-language and Spanish-language rights, while NBC Sports decided not to bid. We understand that FOX Sports bid on the English-language rights but passed on the opportunity to bid on the Spanish-language rights.
In addition to the UEFA Champions League TV and streaming rights, the deal also includes the rights to the UEFA Europa League.
FOX Sports has been the English and Spanish language rights holder in the US and Caribbean for the UEFA Champions League since the 2009-10 season and Europa League since 2012-13.
In soccer circles, Turner Sports is best known for its television coverage of the 1990 FIFA World Cup that was beamed live from Italy and broadcast on TNT. Turner Sports is the division of Turner Broadcasting System (a Time Warner subsidiary) that’s responsible for sports broadcasts on Turner channels such as TBS, TNT, TruTV and CNN en Español. In addition to those networks, Turner Sports also NBA TV on behalf of the National Basketball Association.
In 2012, Turner acquired Bleacher Report — the popular sports website, which includes soccer coverage — for between $175-$200 million.
A Turner Sports spokesman declined to comment about the news. Likewise, a Univision Deportes spokeswoman declined to comment at this time.
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.
An official announcement is expected in the next two weeks.