Italy’s Serie A season wraps up on May 26, and it’ll also mark the end of the three-year US media rights deal with CBS Sports and Paramount+. Normally that wouldn’t be an issue because leagues often announce the renewal of rights or a new broadcaster several months before a new season begins. However, sources have told World Soccer Talk that Serie A hasn’t agreed to a new US rights deal for the 2024/25 season which is only 101 days away. The future of Serie A on US TV is up in the air.

The delays have caused consternation among fans of Serie A clubs who are worried about the league’s future on US television and streaming. At the same time, sources close to the broadcast discussions have expressed frustration at the slow process of reaching a decision.

In a league featuring American stars such as Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah, and Timothy Weah, the thought of being unable to watch them on US TV or streaming next season is hard to imagine. But unless a decision can be reached soon, soccer fans in the United States continue to sit in a holding pattern.

Serie A talks with CBS Sports hit an impasse

The discussions between Serie A and CBS Sports are quite a saga. In September 2023, Executive Vice President and General Manager of CBS Sports Digital Jeff Gerttula told World Soccer Talk, “We’re having conversations [about renewing the Serie A deal]. We’ve got a lot of momentum with that property.”

But everything changed in October when Serie A’s domestic rights deal with DAZN and Sky failed to get the increase in rights fees that the clubs wanted. The deal agreed was a five-year deal worth 4.5 billion euros (approximately $4.91 billion). That’s about half of what the Premier League will earn from its most recent domestic broadcast contract, which runs just four seasons

That disappointing figure put more pressure on Serie A to generate greater revenue overseas. As the top media market in the world, Serie A knew it needed a sharp increase in US rights fees to make up for it. Sources told World Soccer Talk that Italian league executives wanted Paramount+ to pay $150 million/year (CBS Sports is currently paying $75.8 million/year for both Serie A and Coppa Italia).

Surprised by Serie A’s unrealistic expectations of an increase to $150 million/year, sources close to the deal told World Soccer Talk that CBS Sports decided they would not renew the rights.

Serie A on US TV: ESPN enters the picture

Months later in 2024, with no deal ironed out, a light at the end of the tunnel appeared.

Subsequently, World Soccer Talk understands that Serie A has received two offers for the rights. One is described by an insider as a “considerable amount,” while ESPN made a substantially lower offer. The considerable offer from CBS Sports isn’t the $150 million/year Serie A wants, but it’s understood to be very reasonable given the circumstances.

Still, however, Italian league executives have stalled on making a decision.

World Soccer Talk reached out to Serie A to better understand the reasons for the delay.

“As a standard practice, we do not disclose details of ongoing negotiations until a deal is finalized,” a league spokesperson told World Soccer Talk. “However, rest assured that talks are progressing positively, and we are committed to ensuring that Serie A matches continue to be broadcasted in the United States, a key territory for our strategy due to the presence of four important American players in our Championship and the country where we opened our first foreign office.

“Negotiations are still ongoing with many interested parties and we are confident that a deal will be reached soon.”

World Soccer Talk reached out to both CBS Sports and ESPN for comment. A spokesperson for CBS Sports said that the broadcaster’s policy is not to comment on ongoing rights negotiations. Likewise, an ESPN spokesperson said, “We do not comment on our rights discussions with current or potential partners.”

Serie A success in the USA owes a lot to Paramount+

In a recent podcast episode, MLS announcer Max Bretos highlighted how important Serie A is to Americans, both on the pitch and in the boardroom as more Americans buy clubs in Italy. Part of that success can be attributed back to CBS Sports who have televised the league for the past three seasons.

“We have to wait and see what happens with the broadcast deal,” said Max Bretos. “Paramount+ does a really nice job with it. They push out their production and send people to the games. I’m not sure if that’s sustainable, but they’re doing it right now, so more power to them. They have Mike Grella, Marco Messina, and Matteo Bonetti [as well as Poppy Miller].”

Paramount+’s coverage of Serie A has been a big hit among soccer fans in the United States who appreciate the level of coverage the league has received. Perhaps the shining moment of this season’s coverage was Paramount+’s post-match interview with Marcus Thuram. Marco Messina, who was pitchside at San Siro, beautifully captured Thuram’s excitement at winning the scudetto.

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Future of Serie A US TV talks

So where does the future of Serie A US TV talks go from here? Serie A officials find themselves in a situation where it’s almost as if they’re waiting for a knight in shining armor to come down at the eleventh hour to make a massive offer.

But delaying the decision limits broadcasters from being able to budget and prepare for the new season.

In its last deal with CBS Sports and Paramount+, Serie A signed the agreement approximately 150 days before the season started. With the clock counting down from 101 days until the 2024/25 season begins in August, let’s hope a decision can be reached soon.

Photo: IMAGO / Ulmer/Teamfoto