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Leagues: Champions League

Turner Sports and Champions League FAQ

Turner Sports has revealed more details regarding their coverage plans for the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League for sports fans in the United States.

And as we predicted in May, there are big changes.

In order to try to parse through all of the questions, I’ve written the following FAQ to help. If there are any questions not answered below, feel free to let us know in the comments section and we’ll do our best to update the article to make it even more comprehensive.

Q: First, what’s the news? What do I need to know?

A: In acquiring the US English-language TV and streaming rights to the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League, Turner Sports will be the exclusive broadcaster of those games from the summer of 2018 through until the end of the 2021 season.

The most recent news it that Turner Sports has announced that more than 80% of games will be available via an over-the-top (OTT) paid-subscription streaming service, while fewer than 20% of games will be on TV each season.

The semi-finals and final of the Champions League will air on TBS or TNT. The Europa League final will air on TNT or TBS.

Turner’s UEFA Champions League coverage will include four live telecasts each week throughout the Group Stage (September through early December) – Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. ET – and two televised matches per week during the Knockout Phase (beginning in February) – Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 3 p.m. ET.

Q: Wait, what happened to the 2:45pm ET kickoff times?

A: Starting with the 2018/19 season, UEFA will have double-headers where there will no longer be games at 2:45pm ET. Instead, games will be scheduled for 1pm and 3pm ET on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for the UEFA Champions League.

Q: What happened to FOX? Why won’t they have coverage?

A: FOX Sports lost the rights to the UEFA Champions League for the 2018/19 to 2020/21 seasons. FOX’s 2017/18 season will be their last as the broadcaster for the Champions League and Europa League in the United States.

Q: How many games does Fox actually air right now? During the group stage, I seem to remember they only provide 2-3 games a day.

A: On big matchdays, FOX usually has 4-5 games on via FS1, FS2, FOX Soccer Plus, FOX Sports Net and FOX Deportes. But they also sub-license games to ESPN, which air them on ESPN2 — so there can be as many as 6-7 games aired each gameday.

With Turner Sports, you can expect two games a day during the Champions League Group Stage and one game a day during the Knockout Stage.

Q: What details have been revealed regarding the commentators and talent that Turner Sports plans on hiring to broadcast the Champions League and Europa League to viewers in the US?

A: No details have been announced yet.

Q: What details have been announced about this over-the-top (OTT) paid subscription streaming service from Turner Sports?

A: The streaming platform hasn’t been launched yet, so very little is known. We can expect to see it launch during or prior to August 2018.

No details have been revealed regarding price.

Every single game of the UEFA Europa League will be on the streaming product except for the final on TBS or TNT. Approximately half of the UEFA Champions League games will be available exclusively on the streaming platform too.

Q: How is this any different than the current situation? You need FoxSoccer2Go in order to see all of the UCL games now.

A: The most dramatic change is for TV viewers. Currently during the Champions League group stage, you can expect to have as many as 12 games available per week on TV. With Turner, it’ll be four per week. Also, with the UEFA Europa League, FOX is currently broadcasting approximately 5-6 games during the Group Stage. With Turner, there’ll be zero Europa League games on TV until the final.

Q: What percentage of games are exclusive to FOX Soccer Match Pass today?

A: Currently, FOX Soccer Match Pass streams every single game of the UEFA Champions League and Europa League. But once Turner has the rights beginning in August 2018, FOX Soccer Match Pass will no longer have the rights to stream the games.

Currently, there are approximately 2-3 Champions League games per week that are exclusive to FOX Soccer Match Pass. For the UEFA Europa League, there may be as many as 6 or more that are exclusive on any given matchday.

Q: How many households are TNT, TBS and truTV in?

A: One of the benefits of having the Champions League and Europa League on Turner is the reach of their TV networks. Here are the number of households each channel is in (as of the summer of 2017):

TBS: 91 million
TNT: 90 million
truTV: 87 million

Q: Did Turner say how many Europa Lague games they will be showing on truTV during the Group Stage and Knockout Stage?

A: Yes, the answer is zero. The only Europa League game that will be shown on television is the final, which will be on TNT or TBS.

Q: I don’t understand why UEFA and the Premier League are giving these bids to these channels and allowing them to do this in a country where they are trying to build new viewers to these competitions. What non-soccer fan is going to pay for a subscription? Couple that with what soccer fan wants to continue to be taken for a ride with these paid subscriptions.

A: It’s a valid argument. The reality is that Turner is paying approximately $60 million per season for these rights, so they need to figure out a way to be profitable in a very difficult TV market.

Turner is probably anticipating that it can attract new fans through the broadcasts on truTV and then convert them into paying subscribers for the streaming platform.

Q: It looks like the top UEFA leagues will be featured heavily on truTV. Besides, no one cares for CSKA Moscow versus some random team in Greece.

A: There are people who care about CSKA Moscow versus Olympiakos, but the most important thing to remember is that there will be a lot of big matches played in the Champions League that won’t be on television. If truTV prioritizes games featuring Real Madrid against another opponent plus Barcelona against someone else, that means it’s very likely that a few of the other games featuring big teams won’t be on TV.

For example, let’s take a look at the 2016/17 Champions League season and the schedule of Round of 16 matches. Remember that Turner will show two games per week on TV during the knockout rounds:

March 7, 2017:

Napoli vs. Real Madrid
Arsenal vs. Bayern Munich

March 8, 2017:

Barcelona vs. Paris Saint-Germain
Dortmund vs. Benfica

In the above scenario, Turner (if they had the rights) would have only shown two of those games on TV, meaning the other two would be available exclusively on the streaming platform.

As you can see, it’s a very difficult decision. If Turner had the rights, the Arsenal-Bayern and Dortmund-Benfica games may have been available exclusively via streaming. And imagine how upset those fans would have been.

Q: I know most visitors to this site like streaming, but to me these developments are all a step back. In a few years, it’s not inconceivable that every soccer cup and domestic league will each require a separate subscription of some kind. Soccer fans will end up having to pay separately for everything just to watch soccer. This doesn’t include their spending for Netflix, Hulu and however they get regular channels. Eventually people will end up paying more for the same content (or less).

A: True. That’s the way the industry is heading very rapidly.

Read our article entitled It’s going to cost more to watch soccer after Turner’s Champions League deal for more insight.

Q: Are there any alternatives?

A: Yes, a major one is Univision who have the Spanish-language rights to the Champions League and Europa League in the United States. Univision will broadcast many of the games across Univision Deportes and UniMas, with the Champions League final being on Univision. You can expect that Univision will be putting many (or all) of the games not on television on UnivisionDeportes.com. If you don’t mind watching a soccer game with Spanish commentators, this could be an ideal solution for soccer fans.

Read more of our insight in our article entitled Univision Deportes poised to attract Champions League viewers turned off by Turner’s paywall.

Q: Are the highlights going to be free without a subscription online?

A: It appears that Bleacher Report will be airing the highlights on their website as well as social media.

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18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Roger

    February 23, 2018 at 1:40 pm

    TNT are going to lose their a$$. I bet after the first season of this they will be sub-licensing games to ESPN.

  2. ManchUnited4Life

    August 23, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    I bet half of you ungrateful Eurosnobs are begging for FOX and Gus Johnson now hahaha. American TV viewers didn’t know how good they had it.

    • Can-Tuna

      August 28, 2017 at 10:09 pm

      You are so right! After years of complaining about Fox,, the Eurosnobs will get what they deserve, almost nothing.

  3. David

    August 21, 2017 at 5:43 pm

    I can’t believe I am actually saying this, but I’m going to miss Fox. Turner’s coverage for the Champions League and zero Europa League coverage is terrible. I don’t understand why Turner even bid on this.

    • uran1d10t

      August 21, 2017 at 6:40 pm

      Turner can charge me $250 a month if I don’t have to see Lalas on my screen or hear John Strong with Brad Friedel broadcasting from a closet in Los Angeles.

      • Oliver Tse

        August 21, 2017 at 8:05 pm

        Would you watch UEFA on truTV if Brittany Arnold were the host and Darren Eales or a random Atlanta United FC player were the only studio pundit?

    • Oliver Tse

      August 21, 2017 at 7:52 pm

      Turner put in a big bid for the UEFA club properties because:

      1.Turner wanted a sports TV property targeting men ages 18-34 (and 12-25) to build up truTV. Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News reported this 6 years ago. Turner had to wait for the right opportunity to strike. That opportunity came when FOX hired Jamie Horowitz to reprogram FS1 into a destination for sports-themed “manufactured debates.”

      2. Turner wants more video to build up its San Francisco-based digital sports business Bleacher Report.

      Turner’s announcement last Thursday was a “bad look”: cheap, greedy, and arrogant.

      The decision by Turner Sports COO Matthew Hong (a Harvard Law graduate) to bury the UEFA Europa League except the final into the over-the-top package screams cheap, cheap, cheap.

      Faced with the need to hire announcers to make Europa League matches presentable on TV (because the solo announcers on most Europa League world feeds are inexperienced trainees,) Mr. Hong got around the problem by not airing Europa League matches at all.

      This decision by Mr. Hong is consistent with the way he has run NBA TV, using regional sports network video feeds and staffing studio shows with cheap Atlanta-based talent (using only one studio analyst/pundit for many NBA and WNBA games.).

      Squeezing 4 studio talent (including two big men in Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal) behind a desk designed for 2 at the NBA TV remote onsite studio during the 2017 NBA Finals is yet another example of how “cheap” Mr. Hong can be.

      To be continued…

  4. Daniel

    August 20, 2017 at 11:40 am

    I read the article. To me,it seems all UEFA cares about is money. Because this coverage you laid out absolutely blows for the US. Im not a fan of FOX commentators but atleast you can see the matches on FOX. I guess i will be learning spanish because Univision is not going to F*** over fans the way Turner is whit Sh**y coverage. Once again pirate streaming seems the way to go.

  5. Eddie

    August 18, 2017 at 4:40 pm

    i hope it air tnt/tbs/trutv of all matches on turner sports gor uefa soccer

  6. Joe

    August 18, 2017 at 3:19 pm

    I have a job soooooooooooooo kinda hard to watch UCL and care. To me this is a big plus of the EPL in the US. You can watch most games before noon and have the rest of your day open (with the exception of the noon game) and for me i can watch domestic US leagues at night but like a lot of people i know they go out and do something Saturday nights. UCL will always struggle for me and i am sure others with the accessibility and the time slots.

    • Nosferatu

      August 18, 2017 at 4:30 pm

      I will say that one way in which this OTT service could end up benefitting viewers–particularly those working while the games are on–is if replays are available on demand very soon after the games finish. With Fox, you could use a DVR, though it was always kind of unsatisfying to come home after an Arsenal game aired in standard definition on Fox Sports 2 and watch that blurry replay.

      And having no replays ever available online through Fox Sports Go has always been one of my biggest complaints (unless, of course, that’s a UEFA thing and not a Fox thing, but Fox offers replays of nothing, so I’m guessing it’s their issue). The question here really is just going to be how much Turner decides to charge. Considering 95% of the offerings will be “C and D level games,” contrary to what that one guy from Turner claims, they’d be really wise to keep the price down to like $30, especially the first year.

  7. Lovac

    August 18, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    I haven’t watched a CL group stage game in years. I compare them to summer friendlies. It’s very easy to determine who will be there in February, which is the only thing that matters. It doesn’t really excite me watching millionaires play games of little importance.

    I think this will backfire big time. We are talking about Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons when people are working. In addition, most people will be more than fine with two games on tv just like they are fine with NBCSN coverage of the premier league. Yes, there are die hards but not enough of them to make a profit this way, especially with Univision also having spanish coverage for free.

  8. Emmett

    August 18, 2017 at 12:38 pm

    In your March 7 and 8 2017 example, would that be where the split kickoff times come into play? Would they still only broadcast one of the games each day or would they have a doubleheader both days?

    • Christopher Harris

      August 18, 2017 at 12:47 pm

      Good point. In the 2017/18 season onwards, the kickoff times would be split so one game kicks off at 1pm ET and the other at 3pm ET. But Turner has still said that they would only show two games on TV that week with the other two on streaming, so the issue still stands.

    • Oliver Tse

      August 18, 2017 at 1:10 pm

      The 1pm ET time slot will only be in use during the Champions League Group Stage.

      All Champions League knockout stage matches will be in the 3pm ET (or 4pm EDT between the 2nd Sunday and last Sunday in March.)

      Turner Sports will only offer 1 match per time slot on TV. That means only 1 match on Tuesday and 1 match on Wednesday once the knockout stage starts.

      In contrast, Univision Deportes will use 2 channels during the knockout stage, with 1 match on Univision Deportes Network (UDN) and another match on UniMas (which is free-to-air in many cities.)

      The photo included in this article are of Turner Sports COO Matthew Hong, Turner Broadcasting President David Levy, and Turner Sports President Lenny Daniels.

      This is my “read” of Turner Sports:

      COO Matthew Hong, who is the “point man” of the UEFA project as well as the head of NBA TV, is “cheap”. He would not spend one penny of TV production cost on UEFA Europa League prior to the final.

      How “cheap”? We’ll find out once Mr. Hong hires the host for UEFA on truTV/TNT/TBS. If he were to hire Atlanta United FC TV host Brittany Arnold (who cannot turn down a lowball offer of around $30,000/season) instead of one of the Atlanta-based CNN International World Sport anchors with actual experience covering European football as journalists such as Kate Riley, Patrick Snell, or Don Riddell (I am guessing at least $60,000/season in addition to what each is making right now at CNN,) then we will know that Mr. Hong is “dirt cheap”.

      The rest of the execs, including David Levy, Lenny Daniels, and Craig Barry are all greedy and arrogant. They continue to believe that the typical Bleacher Report consumer, males ages 18-34, will be willing to pay for Input Media-produced UEFA video in English when Univision Deportes will offer the same products for free (or no additional charge via authenticated access) at UnivisionDeportes.com and/or Univision Deportes app.

      We will see how the “soccer war” between Turner Sports and Univision Deportes will eventually play out.

      • Nosferatu

        August 18, 2017 at 2:02 pm

        It’s pretty odd, actually–why would they do the split kickoff times in the group stage but not when it counts even more and you have multiple compelling matchups, as illustrated above? Is it just a concern over extra time and penalties possibly being needed in the second legs and having overrun?

  9. Dan

    August 18, 2017 at 12:23 pm

    The UK and Spain rights are effectively going behind a paywall starting in 2018 too, as the pay broadcasters will also provide the highlights (rather than broadcast network highlights shows).

    I think part of what’s going on is that in addition to a changing media landscape (which clearly is trending towards OTT and ala carte), UEFA now effectively has to maximize the rights fees more than before because starting with 2018, the competition reforms and UEFA Events company that is being created are giving the clubs greater ownership/control than was previously the case (to prevent those pan-Europe super-league talks which always seems to be bubbling below the surface).

    To the clubs, especially other than in England (where EPL TV money dwarfs what the Champions League brings in), only increased revenue really matters, as opposed to whether the most people possible are watching (for example).

    Just my opinion of course!

    • Paul

      August 19, 2017 at 2:49 am

      The UK rights are already behind a paywall and have been for a few years. The only free-to-air coverage has been a weekly highlights programme on ITV but that’s ending after the current season. BT Sport already have exclusive live coverage so there’s no real change to the UK landscape from how it is now when the 2018 deal kicks in.

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