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U.S. Soccer announce new TV deal with Turner Sports

U.S. Soccer announce new TV deal

U.S. Soccer has announced a new TV deal with Turner Sports. It’ll bring the U.S. Men’s National Team and U.S. Women’s National Team games to a new English-language home beginning in 2023.

Under the terms of the 8-year deal from 2023 through 2030, Turner Sports will air games across TNT/TBS and HBO Max. In total, it’ll include more than 20 United States National Soccer Team matches each year. TNT or TBS will televise approximately half of those matches. All of the games, even if they are on TV, will be available live and on-demand via HBO Max.

Specifically, Turner Sports will broadcast the following types of games exclusively via English-language from 2023 through 2030:

— National Team friendlies,
— send-off matches and special events leading up to and following the World Cup and Olympic Games,
— U.S. Open Cup games, and
— SheBelieves Cup, among additional events involving the Women’s and Men’s National Soccer Teams.

It’ll also include U.S. National Team World Cup qualifiers. Since the US Men’s National Team (USMNT) is expected to automatically qualify for the 2026 World Cup as one of the hosts, the World Cup qualifiers will apply to the US Women’s National Team (USWNT) as well as the World Cup qualifiers leading into the 2030 men’s World Cup.

WarnerMedia’s streaming strategy

This year is the final one under the U.S. Soccer current deal, signed in 2015 between FOX Sports, Univision and ESPN.

While WarnerMedia has two prominent television channels (TBS and TNT) to choose from, WarnerMedia also has many streaming options to choose from. WarnerMedia owns Bleacher Report and HBO Max. The latter will be adding NHL, so the addition of USMNT and USWNT games makes sense.

At the same time, WarnerMedia is close to finalizing a merger with Discovery. The merged mega company (to be named Warner Bros. Discovery) will likely launch its own streaming service in late 2022 or early 2023 to compete against Disney+ and Netflix. Discovery already has a Discovery+ paid streaming service. That merger is scheduled to be completed in April 2022.

US Soccer’s need for a new media partner

When World Soccer Talk spoke with US Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone last month, she explained what she was looking for in a new media partner.

“We’re looking for a [media] partner that has a broader vision than just our national teams because US Soccer is a lot bigger than just that.”

Turner Sports’s agreement with US Soccer also includes the US Open Cup, a historic competition that’s in dire need of a boost. Having a new media partner such as Turner Sports could give the competition the coverage and exposure it needs.

Turner Sports also interested in MLS

The rights to the US national team is one thing, but Turner Sports is also interested in acquiring the rights to Major League Soccer, which are up for bid this month. As early as February 2020, executives from Turner Sports expressed an interest in the rights to MLS.

MLS is attractive to Turner Sports because the audience skews younger than traditional American sports. Plus, Turner Sports has a lot of airtime available to broadcast games, given that it doesn’t have college football.

Now it’s MLS’ turn

The news will certainly raise eyebrows at Major League Soccer headquarters. Last May, US Soccer decided to end its partnership with Soccer United Marketing in order to sell the rights by themselves. By doing so, the Federation would receive a greater share of the TV revenue that it previously split with MLS.

Last week, MLS Commissioner Don Garber was optimistic about what the split means for U.S. Soccer:

“I think it sets up U.S. Soccer to be on their own, like any property would want to be when they have the capability to be able to manage their rights,” said Garber. “I wish them the best. I truly do. I’m a board member and I want nothing more than for them to be successful.”

Now it’s Major League Soccer’s turn to finalize its own new media deal, which is projected to close by the end of this month.

What about Spanish-language rights?

As of press time, no decision has been reached regarding Spanish-language rights. Oftentimes, those deals are done separately, and are announced after the English-language rights are completed.

Spanish-language rights are important for a number of reasons. Firstly, they compete directly against English-language rights. For example, English-language broadcasters could lose a large share of their audience for key games. That can happen if the Spanish-language broadcast is more accessible (i.e. on over-the-air television instead of streaming). Secondly, the Spanish-language audience is growing rapidly in the United States, as it continues to break new viewing records.

With the merged TelevisaUnivision looking for rights to boost its ViX+ paid-streaming service, it will be one of many major contenders.

What does this mean for U.S. Soccer?

The fact that U.S. Soccer was able to complete its own media deal in-house without MLS is an important milestone. For the past 17 years, US Soccer bundled those rights with Major League Soccer. This happened via the MLS marketing entity, Soccer United Marketing. We’re still awaiting the news about Spanish-language rights, but reports are that the English-language deal is worth approximately $200 million, which — once the Spanish-language rights are added — will be more than what US Soccer got previously.

It’s worth noting that the revenue that U.S. Soccer earns from Turner Sports will go directly to U.S. Soccer instead of being split with MLS.

The new deal gives U.S. Soccer an opportunity to build on the success of the USWNT and USMNT, as well as to grow the US Open Cup. In doing so, more of that revenue will go into the Federation than before.

Photo credit for U.S. Soccer announce new TV deal: John Todd/ISI Photos / Getty Images

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25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. Azer

    March 2, 2022 at 12:11 pm

    With the exception of Mexico, the USMNT never plays a competitive side. Who cares about 1 or 2 friendlies in Europe throughout the year? The point is when it comes to the USMNT what is there to look forward to? Why do we have to wait every 4 years, hope they qualify for the World Cup to see them play a competitive game. I’d have more respect for them if they start playing in the Copa America tournament. Go to South America and play Uruguay for example. Don’t be afraid. Forget about CONCACAF football. I’d rather watch the ladies play, the USWNT, they actually play better football, more competitive, fun to watch.

  2. Daniel

    March 2, 2022 at 10:01 am

    I cut the cord long ago. I will not be subscribing to yet another streaming service to watch US Soccer or MLS games. And I most definitely would not be going back to cable. I much prefer it to have stayed in ESPN+. Oh well, no MLS soccer for me in 2023!

    • JP

      March 2, 2022 at 10:39 am

      MLS rights haven’t been announced yet

  3. Kyle

    March 1, 2022 at 11:46 pm

    How come the us open cup isn’t mentioned in the release as part of the deal?

    • Christopher Harris

      March 2, 2022 at 7:15 am

      We will discuss it on the next podcast.

  4. Jasinho

    March 1, 2022 at 10:28 pm

    I also wonder if this would eventually force Fubo’s hand of getting the Turner Networks.

  5. Jasinho

    March 1, 2022 at 10:26 pm

    I’ll drink to that.

    I’ll also speculate that Turner will obtain the rights to all nationally broadcasted games for MLS, ESPN would have the Leagues Cup and ESPN+ will have supplemental MLS coverage.

  6. Eplnfl

    March 1, 2022 at 8:22 pm

    Turner may be a network on the move but is it wise for US Soccer to leave a network or media groups that lacks major over the air coverage? Also as a National Team do we need a Flagship network for the matches ? The answer to me seems yes.

    • D

      March 2, 2022 at 12:13 pm

      TNT/TBS are both right at the top of the list for most widely distributed cable channels. Sports fans already recognize them for watching NBA/NHL/MLB and half of March Madness (split with CBS). So no issue there.

  7. locofooty

    March 1, 2022 at 5:15 pm

    I can see Telemundo pulling out its wallet and taking a look at the rights with them trying to strengthen Peacock and the upcoming “TPlus”. It is Univision’s to lose though. I’d be shocked if they don’t keep the rights. With their massive reach of networks and Vix.

    • Gus Ortiz

      March 1, 2022 at 11:24 pm

      It looks like Turner will get MLS rights as well. Hopefully since Turner has no College Football, MLS will be more confortable to change calendar to fall to spring with a winter break. This change will ensure higher TV ratings and higher rights feed in the future.

  8. Leo

    March 1, 2022 at 5:00 pm

    $30 million for 20 games a year is huge (and it does not include Spanish rights). Bundesliga earn that amount of money for 306 games a year in ESPN+ (included Spanish rights and 2.Bundesliga rights).

    • JP

      March 2, 2022 at 10:46 am

      Even thought it’s not that much money compared to other deals, still feels like an overpay.
      Almost all of the matches will be meaningless, except for the USWNT qualifiers when we know with 99.99% certainty they are going to qualify anyway…so those are kind of useless too.
      The matches that people care about (WC etc) are carried by Fox.
      US Open Cup?? Don’t think that’s going to move the needle either since the majority of fans don’t even know it exists (I just found out from the article last week!)

      • Ra

        March 2, 2022 at 11:28 am

        I agree. I am probably an outlier, but I have no interest in watching any of these matches. I am not interested in MLS either, but even less here.

        • JP

          March 2, 2022 at 11:44 am

          MLS is in a difficult situation. To be honest the product is ok. Just so much competition and soccer is still niche. People get excited over some EPL, Liga MX, or UCL matches getting a million viewers on national broadcasts. That is chump change compared to other major sports.
          It’s been discussed many times about the soccer fatigue (when season overlaps with Euro Leagues) and NFL/College football dominating in the fall. All true.
          Really, dead of summer is when MLS has it’s only real chance to stand out since only competing with baseball (for sports entertainment).
          The revamped League Cup could become just the thing to move the needle somewhat. I think that will be the main attraction for bidders of MLS rights.

          • Ra

            March 2, 2022 at 12:04 pm

            For me, once the EU season is over I switch my attention to South American soccer (where it is winter and the competitions are in full swing); so even in the dead of summer, it does not make a difference to me.
            I agree – their fundamental problem is that there is simply too much soccer, and they mostly failed to connect emotionally with local, regional and national communities.
            I still blame the lack of relegation for that.

            • JP

              March 2, 2022 at 1:46 pm

              Yeah, going to try to get into Argentinian and Brazilian leagues this year. Last year was rough with no fans so gave up quickly.

              Enjoyed Copa Libertadores when I had beIN, so not a big leap to say I’d enjoy both those leagues too. Problem is not knowing who any of the clubs are aside from the few well known or the history/rivalries and so on. That will come with time I suppose, similar to the Euro leagues outside of Serie A when I started following much more.

  9. Anthony

    March 1, 2022 at 4:19 pm

    After reading through, this is less meaningful than it seems in terms of the men’s game, given the contract does not include any US men’s World Cup Qualifying matches (which are the most “competitive” matches in terms of the men’s game). What about Gold Cups? I don’t see those mentioned here. Does Fox still keep Gold Cup?

    • dave

      March 1, 2022 at 4:49 pm

      @Anthony, I agree it is unclear what is included. My first reaction is $25 million per year is low for full rights, negotiated in 2022, to USMNT and USWNT. Perhaps some good stuff is being sold separately. It is hard to keep track of who has rights to what for CONCACAF.

    • Christopher Harris

      March 1, 2022 at 4:54 pm

      FOX has the Gold Cup rights as well as World Cup 2022 and 2026

    • D

      March 2, 2022 at 12:10 pm

      Deal is assumed to include men’s home qualifiers for 2030 (assuming the US/Canada/Mexico automatically qualify for 2026), as well as the 2023 and 2027 women’s home qualifiers (if CONCACAF doesn’t do it as a pure tournament).

  10. Lovac1

    March 1, 2022 at 4:18 pm

    Is this only for home games or both home and away games?

    • Christopher Harris

      March 1, 2022 at 4:52 pm

      Home matches only.

  11. SteveK

    March 1, 2022 at 3:25 pm

    No mention of how much these rights cost? John Ourand puts it at 25-27 million per year…and this:

    “Under the terms of the 8-year deal from 2023 through 2028” might not have the right end date.

    • Christopher Harris

      March 1, 2022 at 3:37 pm

      The article mentions the $200 million price tag. 2030, yes, is the end date.

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