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Turner Sports has eyes on MLS rights

Turner Sports has eyes on MLS rights

In recent developments, it is clear that Turner Sports has eyes on MLS rights.

In shocking news this week, Turner Sports have told UEFA they opted out of its UEFA Champions League contract. Therefore, the U.S. broadcaster will not broadcast the remainder of the 2019/20 Champions League and Europa League games. The same applies to the final season, 2020/21, of its current UEFA contract.

Champions League coverage in the U.S.

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.

SEE MORE: Schedule of UEFA Champions League games on US TV and streaming

Turner Sports has eyes on MLS rights

In related news, Turner Sports dropped hints at another major development. The broadcaster expressed interested in bidding for the rights to the next Major League Soccer 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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  1. Bobby Drake

    July 22, 2020 at 2:09 pm

    Any update on who will live stream/TV the games in two weeks time? Also is there a penalty fee for not fulfilling the contract?? It really seems TNT bought the rights without knowing what the Champ Leag was. ESPN tends to purchase “more game packages” when bidding for TV rights. They show entire MLB seasons but never playoffs because that package is too expensive. Same with all other sports (NBA, NHL NFL). Smart move but sad because this trend indicates ESPN would not take Champ Leag contract. I am hopeful for EPL one day though…..

    • Christopher Harris

      July 22, 2020 at 2:25 pm

      CBS will broadcast the UEFA Champions League beginning in early August.

      Here’s the schedule so far:

      TNT was not penalized for not fulfilling the season. There was an opt-out clause in the contract that allowed TNT to give the rights back to UEFA.

      • nosferatu

        July 22, 2020 at 2:49 pm

        It’s a relief to see games on CBS Sports Network (this literally might be the first or second time I’ll ever turn that station on). It only makes logical sense that they’d put games on the network, but I’ll admit I was concerned they’d make things pretty much exclusive to All Access.

        • NaBUru38

          July 22, 2020 at 3:35 pm

          CBS Sports Network is not Nielsen rated. For advertisers, it doesn’t exist.

  2. Yespage

    June 29, 2020 at 11:54 am

    Well thank goodness Adrian laid that egg in the COVID-19 spreader game back in March. Otherwise, I might be upset.

  3. dj

    June 28, 2020 at 10:53 pm

    guys, don’t give a rat’s ass who the hell the commentators are as long as we watch the games come August for 15 days. Some open non-subscribing channel needs to cut that friggin deal!

  4. Donald Duck

    June 28, 2020 at 3:23 pm

    While I understand that CBS might not be the best place for this I do believe that CBS can make this work. Basing all my evidence on the way they do with NFL, College Football/Basketball and their great Golf coverage. Only thing that worries me is all the talk about making water breaks a full time thing moving forward. There has been discussions about a water break at the 15 30 60 and 75 marks of the match so CBS can sell a 30 second advertising spot.

    All I really ask for is a great streaming experience say 1080 and possibly 4k for the semifinals and championships of both Champions and Europa league.

    • Barry

      June 29, 2020 at 7:18 am

      Where did you see/hear talk about four water breaks so that CBS can sell more advertising? I’d love to read the article if you have a URL for it.

      Whoever is saying that, I’m betting they are making it up. US rights for televising the Champions League is a small percentage of the the total TV rights UEFA sells for the competition. They are not going to torque their tournament structure to satisfy one relatively small partner. I expect two water breaks as many leagues are now doing due to the summer heat and the lack of a full pre season of training.

  5. Steve

    June 28, 2020 at 12:50 pm

    TUDN/Univision for me as well. I understand basic Spanish and GOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLL translates pretty easily.

  6. Daniel

    June 28, 2020 at 3:10 am

    TNT’s coverage was sh*te. So much behind a paywall was BS. No EL until the final? Bizarre pre and post game shows trying to replicate NBA coverage. Who gives 2 sh**s Steve Nash is on there because he was an AC Milan fan? It was absolutely horrible their coverage. They had plenty of channels to have every game on. And could have rebroadcast the games at night. Good riddance. Sadly i think CBS will do the same thing. Its too bad i dont speak spanish. Univision/TUDN coverage is excellent.

    • Ivan

      June 28, 2020 at 10:31 am

      Ditto on everything you said. If CBS does the same amateurish garbage job with CL/EL, I will just watch on Univision, my rudimentary Spanish and all.

  7. Nick

    June 27, 2020 at 10:25 am

    Reading not my strong point will august champions and europa league be shown on br app with subscription?

    • Christopher Harris

      June 27, 2020 at 10:32 am

      It doesn’t appear that it will. I would recommend cancelling your subscription.

  8. Brendan

    June 26, 2020 at 8:26 pm

    Good riddance .no money to made at it .ESPN should jump in the short term as the have the expertise

  9. Patrick

    June 26, 2020 at 1:56 pm

    I wonder what this will mean for BR Live going forward. Surely they can’t charge the same price for just Scottish Premiership, Belgian League, and some lacrosse. Will they fold their remnant products into HBO max as mentioned in the article and just give up on BR Live? I think it’s more likely they try to keep BR Live alive and market as bundle w/ HBO Max in the same way Disney did with Hulu and ESPN+. The problem will be a multi-year period where they have very little to entice people.

    Also Chris do you happen to know when Turner’s SPFL deal expires? Would love to see that go to another service so I can bail on my BR Live subscription.

  10. HKM

    June 26, 2020 at 12:18 pm

    I see UEFA moving to ESPN if Bristol wants it. They already have the talent and infrastructure, plus what a lure to get ESPN+ subscribers (as well as Disney+ and Hulu bundlers) in the door when, even if it’s only for one year, a “one-stop app” with all UEFA (both club and international) soccer, all German and Italian soccer (leagues and cups), all non-EPL English soccer, the MLS out of market package, and 2021 Copa America. The Champions League alone has tremendous opportunity to drive ESPN+ subs more the BR Live because of the complementary properties and lower price point.

    CBS would also make sense but the whole point of them getting the rights was as an add-on or as part of the “CBS All-Access 2.0” that’s going to be a different animal than it’s current form that includes content from the recently-acquired Viacom properties including movies from Paramount. Accelerating that revamp is not easy.

    Fox just axed their lead soccer producer and is cutting costs left and right at the moment so think that indicates their priorities.

    • Azer

      June 26, 2020 at 5:15 pm

      What talent are you talking about? The 2 FA Cup games on TV this weekend will be called by Adrian Healy & Craig Burley from Bristol, CT half a world away. Expect the same if ESPN acquires the remainder of the Champions League/Europa League. ESPN does not put any effort into it’s soccer coverage. They even use their domestic crew for commentary on ESPN+ You’re giving them to much credit. As far as Turner & B/R Live, It was a failed experiment, perhaps if Turner Sports was a TV network, it would be a different story.

      • nosferatu

        June 27, 2020 at 5:13 am

        I’m curious as to why ESPN feels a need to do this seemingly whenever the opportunity presents itself. Does it cost the network anything extra to use world feed commentators?

        I also wouldn’t put it past the ESPN higher-ups to have some misguided notion that their people are the best, naturally. Or they want to get bang for the buck in terms of putting their employees to work as often as possible. Maybe it’s just that Healey and Co. can advertise other ESPN broadcasts/shows during the game if they call it, unlike world feed commentators.

  11. Robert

    June 26, 2020 at 8:28 am

    Well Kartik (forget my email) must have not been paying attention, since this part of the podcast went right by me. This is good for the MLS, they may be able to get more cash if there actually is competition for the rights to broadcast their games.

  12. Rich

    June 26, 2020 at 6:43 am

    “CBS Sports, who acquired the rights for the 2021/22 season onwards, are likely to be the leading contender to acquire the rights”

    I don’t understand why peop keep saying this.

    CBS , who probably hasn’t broadcast soccer since MISL in the 80’s, would have to squeeze 15 months of marketing and talent recruitment into 6 weeks. What are the chances they could or would be willing to pull that off? They already have the channels and studio space, but that isn’t nearly the problem.

    ESPN broadcast Copa America last year with about a month’s notice and could promote UCL during their NBA and MLS coverage.

    Fox could take it for a year at a cut rate price and promote it during MLS and NFL games.

    Bein sports could take it in order to bump subscriber numbers.

    CBS is least positioned to do so adequately in this shirt a time frame.

    • Rob

      June 26, 2020 at 12:29 pm

      Perhaps, but they could also just rebroadcast the world feed like NBC does for Premier League games that their announcers aren’t calling. Having a studio half time show might be an issue, but, for example, ESPN+ doesnt bother with that for some of their rights to the FA and League Cups. They might also be able to work out a simulcast deal for half time coverage with whatever broadcaster has the rights in the UK. Hardly insurmountable and a sensible move given that the rights are going to be theirs in short order anyway.

  13. Daniel Mullen

    June 26, 2020 at 12:13 am

    I wonder if they’ll refund part of my $79.99 for the whole year since I got like maybe half of it?

  14. Bret

    June 25, 2020 at 10:03 pm

    sad mad about this. i opted against taking the B/R Live refund back in May because i knew i’d be watching UCL/Europa in August. i thought it was the right thing to do. Now i know i was being fleeced!

    • Doug Turner

      July 8, 2020 at 10:27 pm

      Refund? What refund? I never got word about this?!

  15. The Bear

    June 25, 2020 at 7:46 pm

    MLS is wanting to do away with games on RSNs and go for larger national contracts. MLS should keep FOX & ESPN but add at least 1 new partner as there will be plenty of soccer to go around.

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