Could Turner Sports’ strategy for the Champions League be an over-the-top subscription play?

Among soccer fans, there has been much anticipation about how Turner Sports will broadcast the UEFA Champions League when they begin coverage in the late summer of 2018.

At the same time, there’s also been a lot of speculation about what channels Turner Sports will use to distribute the games to soccer fans throughout the United States. That speculation and analysis has included TruTV and Turner’s more popular and well-known properties.

However in conversations with two industry insiders, there’s speculation that Turner Sports may be considering broadcasting the UEFA Champions League via an online subscription service to viewers in the United States. The paid subscription offering would broadcast most of the English-language UEFA Champions League matches in the US, while the bigger clashes would be shown on television. Plus, as part of the service, all games would be available across desktop, mobile, tablet and over-the-top (OTT) devices such as Roku, Apple TV and Chromecast.

With the rights running from 2018 to 2021, and with TV networks working to transform themselves in an era of cord cutting, moving to a subscription service makes a lot of sense. The chief executive of one of the biggest US media companies has already admitted that OTT is the future for ESPN. So much so that BAMTech, which is part-owned by ESPN’s parent company Disney, reportedly bid $35 million per year to acquire the rights to the Champions League but were beaten by Turner Sports.

On each UEFA Champions League matchday during the Group Stage, there are four groups played on Tuesdays, while the other four groups play their matches on Wednesdays, with the two sets of groups (A–D, E–H) alternating between each matchday. With so many matches played, it’s impossible to show them all on television. How many of the games Turner Sports will decide to air on television versus how many will only be available via the OTT service will have to be determined, if that’s the strategy they’ll deploy. But nevertheless, for fans of clubs that are in the Champions League (beginning with the 2018/19 season), a subscription to an UEFA Champions League streaming service may be on the cards to ensure you don’t miss a single game.

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