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CBS to broadcast Champions League from London

Last week, when CBS announced the names of their star soccer talent that would be covering the UEFA Champions League and Europa League, it was assumed that the A-list of analysts, commentators and presenters would be part of a world feed that CBS would be utilizing.

After all, CBS Sports had very little turnaround time to assemble a crew after Turner Sports decided in June not to broadcast soccer anymore and returned the Champions League rights back to UEFA.

Before Turner’s shocking decision, CBS Sports had been working on launching their Champions League coverage in August 2021 for their three-year deal with UEFA. But when Turner Sports bailed earlier this summer, and with CBS Sports picking up the rights one year ahead of time, CBS Sports went into overdrive.

In an interview with World Soccer Talk on Monday, executives from CBS Sports revealed that the talent (whose last names are synonymous with soccer excellence — Gullit, Schmeichel, Drury, Tyldesley and Carragher, just to name a few) won’t be part of the world-feed as originally thought. Instead, they’ll cover the Champions League and Europa League for CBS for the conclusion of the 2019/20 season and hopefully beyond. (The 2020/21 season begins in quick succession; the Group Stage kicks off October 20).

That means talent such as Roberto Martinez, Jamie Carragher, Peter Schmeichel, Ruud Gullit, Peter Drury, Alex Scott, Micah Richards, Kate Abdo and Clive Tyldesley will grace U.S. television and streaming. With the combination of several of the sharpest minds and best-in-class commentators, CBS Sports has assembled a who’s who of soccer coverage unlike anything the UEFA Champions League has seen before in the United States of America.

Instead of going on and on with endless paragraphs of praise for the likeability and thought-provoking analysis that Roberto Martinez offers, as well as our praise for the other talent, we’ll get straight to the point about how enthused we are with CBS’s decision to hire a diverse and cosmopolitan set of talent. These are really smart moves by a broadcaster who is serious about making an impact in the soccer landscape as well as making a massive push to endear sports fans to CBS All Access.

“I don’t think anybody saw us coming,” explained Chairman of CBS Sports Sean McManus. “I think it was a surprise to everybody that CBS was in the soccer business in a huge way almost overnight. We look at each one of these deals independently and separately, and this soccer deal made a lot of sense for CBS. And I think it makes a lot of sense for UEFA also.

“We’ve been looking at [soccer, in the past]. It just hasn’t fit into our programming schedule. On the network, we’re pretty much programmed twelve months a year with all of our major sports — whether it’s NFL football, college football, golf or basketball. There wasn’t a lot of room on our broadcast network [for soccer]. And from a CBS Sports Network cable standpoint, the economics just didn’t seem to work for us all that well.

“We looked at soccer, but nothing really made sense until this UEFA package came along for CBS All Access. And it made really, really good financial and programming sense to acquire it.”

 

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While McManus is bullish on CBS All Access, as he should be, having the talent working directly from England is a very unique take for an American broadcaster.

CBS Sports will be using IMG Studios near London, which has the benefit of being near some of the biggest names in the business when it comes to analyzing and commentating on the sport.

“This will definitely have a CBS Sports ‘stamp’ on it,” said CBS Sports Senior Creative Director Pete Radovich Jr.

McManus added, “The ultimate stamp is who your talent is. Pete and his team selected the talent, and we did all of the deals with them in record time. That’s as big a stamp as you can put on your production and coverage.”

With CBS Sports driving the production and editorial coverage of the UEFA Champions League, the coverage comes with the added bonus of Peter Drury and Clive Tyldesley taking turns to commentate the games exclusively for CBS Sports and viewers across America.

Asked whether the talent would be continuing for the 2020/21 season and beyond, Radovich Jr. confirmed that Kate Abdo will continue and added, positively, “let’s get through August, and see how things go” for the other talent.

When asked how many Champions League games we can expect to see on the CBS over-the-air network in the future, McManus said “When our primary deal kicks in, the original deal (for 2021/22 through 2023/24), there’ll be more Champions League games on broadcast television than ever before, including the final.

“For the 2020/21 season, we’re still working it out with our stations and affiliates. We’re going to try to get some good broadcast exposure but it’s pretty close schedule-wise for schedules that have been put in place for a long time, and we’ve got a lot of other sports conflicts whether it’s golf or other things.”

While the excitement level will be at a fever pitch later this week for the return of the UEFA Champions League especially considering some of the matchups (including Man City-Real Madrid, Barcelona-Napoli, Bayern Munich-Chelsea), the pre-qualification for next season’s Europa League will already be taking place throughout August.

In previous years, select games have aired on different television and streaming platforms, but the availability and broadcasting of these games has been very random. (The rights to the qualifying games are not in the same UEFA package for the Champions League and Europa League). However, CBS Sports revealed to World Soccer Talk that the broadcaster is trying to obtain the rights.

“We feel that it’s something that has been overlooked in the past,” shared Radovich Jr., “but I think it’s something that we’re definitely going to put a focus on [to try to acquire].”

CBS’ live coverage of the UEFA club competitions begins Wednesday. Every single Europa League and Champions League game will be streamed via CBS All Access, while select games will be available on television.

Watch live coverage of every round, including every game of the UEFA Champions League and Europa League on CBS All Access. New to CBS All Access? Get your 7-day free trial & start streaming instantly >

 

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17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Val USA

    August 8, 2020 at 11:48 pm

    CBS All Access is NOT up to the task:

    1. The games should be available LIVE and then ON DEMAND after the game is over. 2 problems here:
    • ON DEMAND availability is only 4 hours after the game is over. This is too long.
    • There are no thumbnails when fast forwarding or rewinding
    2. Highlights of Chelsea-Bayern do not work 6.5 hours after the game

    • LIguy

      August 9, 2020 at 5:44 pm

      First weekend they are missing thumbnails so they aren’t up to the task??? Really????

  2. Marc

    August 6, 2020 at 10:05 am

    I watched the Man United match on demand last night. The first twenty five minutes didn’t have the fake crowd noise, which I prefer, but then the rest of the match had it. Since I signed up for CBS All Access a few nights ago I noticed there were quite a few glitches while watching shows. Wondering if anybody else has the same issues? HULU, ESPN+ Netflix are all fine.

  3. Christopher Harris

    August 6, 2020 at 7:27 am

    CBS Sports keeps on making the smart decisions when hiring talent. The latest is Jim Beglin. A superb co-commentator, who will be making his CBS debut alongside Peter Drury for Barcelona-Napoli game.

  4. Steve

    August 5, 2020 at 5:14 pm

    Carragher is a disgrace, He should have been fired from Sky, How he kept a job and keeps getting more I will never know. He spat at a young child, it was all caught on tape. Disgusting.
    Gullit, Richards and Schmeichel are fine.

  5. David the Yank

    August 5, 2020 at 4:36 pm

    so was a bit exaggerated (as I expected) that Tyldsely & Drury would do EVERY match.
    Very difficult to do these multiple tournaments without using the World Feed.

  6. David the Yank

    August 5, 2020 at 4:14 pm

    Sorry, I turned on the Inter Getafe match late. Is this not Steve Wilson on the World Feed?

    • Christopher Harris

      August 5, 2020 at 4:19 pm

      Steve Wilson it is!

  7. NashRambler

    August 5, 2020 at 2:57 pm

    Christopher,

    When Sean McManus says “there’ll be more UCL games on broadcast television than ever before, including the final” does he mean all of these games will be live? Also by “broadcast television” does he necessarily mean the main CBS network broadcast channel or is there the possibility that the games will be offered to CBS affiliates with the option of broadcasting them on the affiliate’s digital over-the-air subchannels?

    • Christopher Harris

      August 5, 2020 at 3:04 pm

      In answer to your first question, he means select games. The bar is set pretty low from previous broadcasters. FOX showed 1-2 games on their network television channel each year. Anything more than that will be “more than ever before.”

      In answer to your second question, he means the CBS network over-the-air channel. As with FOX Sports, it’s up to each affiliate whether or not they will broadcast that game on their local over-the-air TV channel or not.

  8. Travis

    August 4, 2020 at 9:52 pm

    This is good news indeed. Getting talent of that caliber, exclusive to CBS no less. This means that CBS is serious about Champions League coverage. Cautiously optimistic.

    Let’s all hope Barcelona go all the way to the promised land, to quote Clive.

  9. Dan N.

    August 4, 2020 at 1:50 pm

    “And from a CBS Sports Network cable standpoint, the economics just didn’t seem to work for us all that well.”

    I hope this doesn’t mean they don’t utilize CBSSN and other CBS/Viacom networks for any of their matches. Whatever economics they’re talking about, I’m sure European football can grab more eyes than daytime sports talk or golf qualifiers. Given that the matches are during weekday afternoons, it wouldn’t seem like college football/basketball would get in the way of that at all. Fox managed to do it, so….

  10. Karl

    August 4, 2020 at 11:48 am

    I hope I’m wrong, but I’m not holding my breath on getting games on “Big CBS” midweek as their (not owned and operated) affiliates often have significant investment in their syndicated afternoon programming. Stuff like Dr. Phil and Judge Judy draws well (and create strong lead-ins for local news) and is expensive. It will be quite the task for CBS to convince the affiliates.

    • Michael

      August 4, 2020 at 12:32 pm

      I agree. Sports will never be shown in CBS daytime, because daytime TV are the local affiliate’s bread and butter…but you have to take into account ATSC 3.0 that is replacing our current Tuning. It has taken a delay because of the Pandemic…but once that goes into effect the local channels will have much greater bandwidth on the over the air channels. Your 5.2, 5.3…5.7 etc is opening up tons of space and channels that allows the stations to have more material and content. You are already seeing some of this where BeinSports Xtra is broadcast over the Air in HD for free with just the antenna. With ATSC 3.0 they will be able to broadcast in 4k. I believe that is why CBS waited until now to get into the bidding, because the technology allows them more resources. I haven’t decided about CBS all access yet, because I currently watch the games over the Air with UniMass & Univision. But Christopher is doing such a great job of selling it…that seems like a good deal. I am going to take the free 30 days and see what it looks like. I follow Barca and Seville and they will both me shown predominately over the air with UniMass and Univision…but I still follow Arsenal despite not really following the EPL….so the chances of me seeing all of their Euorpa games are less….but if everyone is on CBS All Access I can follow all three teams every game, and not have to be in front of the TV at the assigned time. Tempting. Very tempting.

      • Travis

        August 4, 2020 at 9:54 pm

        “Barcelona reach the promised land!”

        Clive August 23rd 2020

    • Jeff

      August 4, 2020 at 9:48 pm

      Agree – guessing the broadcast exposure (CL final aside) will consist of CBS replaying some of the ‘big’ games on weekends

  11. Brian

    August 4, 2020 at 8:41 am

    Damn it they may just get me to subscribe after all lol.

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