When ViacomCBS acquired the rights to the UEFA Champions League earlier than anticipated in the summer of 2020, few soccer fans could have predicted at the time that CBS Sports would go on a acquisition spree to make Paramount+ a major destination for soccer coverage.
Under its belt, ViacomCBS’ Paramount+ streaming service already has a long list of soccer properties. In addition to the UEFA Champions League, Paramount+ features the Europa League, NWSL and Europa Conference League (to debut later this year). And in recent weeks, in a major coup, ViacomCBS’ Paramount+ added Serie A rights for seasons 2021/22 through 2023/24, preventing ESPN+ from renewing their coverage of the league for the next three seasons. Paramount+ also acquired the English-language rights to Argentina’s Primera División, as well as the English-language rights to select World Cup qualifiers, and the Brasileirāo league (English-language).
“We want to be a year-round must-subscribe destination for soccer fans. We’re trying to do that by building a service that is for those fans, cares about those fans and presents it in an authentic way,” Executive Vice President and General Manager at CBS Sports Digital Jeffrey Gerttula told World Soccer Talk.
“What’s going to be fun is now that we have all of these different pieces (Serie A, Argentine league, Brazilian league, Champions League, NWSL, etc), there are so many good stories there. Over time, we’re [looking forward to] telling those stories, presenting the games and teams to an American fanbase that is sophisticated but maybe hasn’t had exposure to the Boca-River rivalry, for example. They may have heard of it but we get to start to tell these different stories.”
With the acquisition of the Champions League and Europa League, those games have armed Paramount+ with plenty of soccer coverage on midweek afternoons. Combined with games from NWSL, plus the Argentine and Brazilian leagues, that has begun to offer more choices for weekend matches. When the 2021/22 Serie A season begins on Paramount+ this August, that’ll round out the weekend coverage nicely but there still are rights to other leagues and competitions that are coming up for bidding this year that would make Paramount+ more of a must-have streaming service.
While not mentioning specific leagues, Gerttula is very optimistic about adding more soccer rights in the future.
“We’re always looking,” said Gerttula. “Our mission in trying to make this is a must-subscribe service is that we’re looking at everything. We’re assessing the numbers. We love this audience. We think we can build a product that is something very special and that shows care and respect for the game. We’re looking at everything.
“We’re trying to weigh it against other stuff we have, making sure it fits the calendar, and that we’re confident that we can do it well.
“We don’t feel like we’re done. We will definitely have more announcements as the year progresses. We have a variety of things in the works.
“ViacomCBS believes in this strategy [of looking at acquiring more rights for Paramount+]. They’re giving us the resources to attack where it makes sense, so without promising too much, we’re definitely going to be looking at rights as they come up.”
Compared to the competition, CBS Sports and Paramount+ see storytelling as a key way to set them apart from others.
“We want us to be a place where soccer fans are excited when we acquire rights because we’re going to tell a story, we’re going to invest in it and we’re going to show the audience that we care about it.
“We think we can change the game for soccer broadcasting, and that’s what we’re setting out to do. We’re super excited. We’re passionate about this. We live and die with the audience. We get it. Our job is to keep getting better.”
We asked Gerttula what makes the soccer audience so attractive for Paramount+‘s ambitious growth.
“We love the fit for streaming,” Gerttula said. “[The audience is] young and it’s growing, so those two characteristics are in of themselves very unique in the sports space. And the audience is used to streaming.
“Because soccer rights have been all over the place, and in a lot of cases have required streaming packages, it’s an audience that’s already there.
“It’s also new, in a lot of instances. A large percentage are soccer fans for less than 10 years. They love the stories. They love the experiences. And now we, as storytellers, really get to tap into that in ways that I don’t think have really been tapped into before in the U.S. market.”
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