In shocking news this week, Turner Sports have told UEFA that they have opted out of its UEFA Champions League contract, meaning that the U.S. broadcaster will not broadcast the remainder of the 2019/20 Champions League and Europa League games, as well as the final 2020/21 season of its current UEFA contract.
The news means that UEFA has to find a broadcaster who is willing to air the English-language games in August to complete the 2019/20 season, as well as the full 2020/21 season.
CBS Sports, who acquired the rights for the 2021/22 season onwards, are likely to be the leading contender to acquire the rights, but the timing of Turner’s decision to opt out is unfortunate. There have been no UEFA club games since March. However, Turner Sports and Bleacher Report waited until mid June to notify UEFA of their decision.
Current Spanish-language rights holder TUDN will continue to broadcast the Champions League and Europa League games on U.S. television.
In related news, Turner Sports have dropped hints that they’re very interested in bidding for the rights to the next Major League Soccer media deal. The current rights cycle with FOX/ESPN/Univision expires at the end of 2022. And World Soccer Talk understands that discussions have already taken place.
At a recent industry conference, a high-ranking Turner Sports executive name-checked MLS as an upcoming rights deal that interests her company, adding that soccer is still a priority for them, citing B/R Football and B/R Live as two examples of how they’re still very focused on the sport. The conference happened before COVID-19 impacted the sports world, but the audience that watches Major League Soccer games certainly skews younger, which would be appealing to Turner Sports and the B/R Football brand.
Another reason why MLS would appeal to Turner Sports and their parent company AT&T is that the new streaming service HBO Max needs live sports to be a serious competitor against rival streaming services on the market including Hulu, Disney+, Peacock Premium, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
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