Soccer TV news: UEFA Champions League rights to CBS

An interesting story to shake up the TV sports-rights world: I notice CBS Sports and Univision has won the bidding for the UEFA Champions League starting in 2021-22, which means the package will move over from TNT/Bleacher Network. Rumour is the deal is for $140 million.

This has come as a shock to a lot of soccer observers because, quite frankly, CBS has shown absolutely no interest in soccer coverage up to now. Mainly, the interest has been from FOX, ESPN or NBC.

This package will mean games on the CBS Sports Network channel, a channel which up to now has been notorious for showing college sports and, ahem, PBR rodeos (!). (They also show Poker Night in America.)

This will definitely be an improvement for that channel’s programming, which isn’t all that compelling a lineup to be honest, and probably an improvement for the fans in general in the USA, because they were all mad that the finals weren’t being shown on free network TV. I also keep reading a lot of negative comments about TNT and Bleacher Report’s coverage, so maybe these folks will be in a better mood once they see what CBS has to offer.

By extension, this is good news here in Canada because we get access to the main CBS network by cable. So maybe we can perhaps see Champions League finals on our cable TV screens again. Last year, the Canadian rights were tied up with DAZN, and so we could only access the finals online — either through the DAZN subscription, or by their YouTube channel which was streaming the finals for free.

As for whether Canadians can watch the other games on CBS Sports Network, which I understand Canadians can also subscribe to up here, I have no idea. My understanding is that DAZN’s deal for Canadian rights to Champions League expires in 2021, so it depends what happens with that deal.

Even if DAZN retains the rights, I don’t see how it prevents us from watching the games shown on the main CBS network. After all DAZN also has Canadian rights to the Premier League, and that isn’t preventing us from watching any of the games being shown on NBC.

One thing I don’t expect is for TSN or Sportsnet to make any sort of bid whatsoever for the Champions League. I guess TSN could, but they seem content with their current, and considerable, lineup of MLS and international soccer offerings.

As for Sportsnet, they are too broke from overpaying for NHL rights to be able to invest in any other sport at the moment. About the only soccer on Sportsnet anymore is Bundesliga, but not even the Germans in this country seem to care about that league.

I also wonder how long Sportsnet will have those rights anyway; you would think DAZN would want them, so they could deliver the final nail in the coffin to Rogers’ soccer coverage. (I notice ESPN has just acquired the USA Bundesliga rights for 2020, incidentally.)

I find all this soccer-TV-rights news fascinating, because the rights always seem to be up for grabs in this part of the world, and it seems like all the networks are fighting for a piece of the soccer pie. You have DAZN betting on the Champions League, Premier League, Serie A and other soccer leagues; you have TSN with MLS and the World Cups; you have Sportsnet with the Bundesliga; you have beIN Sports with Ligue 1 and La Liga and others; you have CBC and ONE Soccer with the Canadian Premier League coverage; and so on and so forth.

It’s interesting, but also maddening for soccer fans in this country who have to shell out money to all these various channels for games. Personally, I am a big proponent of keeping as much of my money in my own pockets as possible. Good luck getting any more money out of me, you soccer broadcast folks! Anyhow, enough of that.