Champions League US Rights Could Fetch $2.5 Billion
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The Champions League is one of the most prestigious tournaments in the world, and UEFA is in the process of figuring out its US media rights partner for the next 6 years.
UEFA’s current US broadcast partners, Paramount and Univision, pay $145 million per year combined. But according to Bloomberg, UEFA is expecting to eventually sign a six-year deal worth more than $2 billion — that’s roughly $333 million annually and 2.29x the annual payment UEFA currently receives from Paramount and Univision.
But my guess is that the winning bid will actually be much higher than $2 billion, and it might even reach $2.5 billion over six years. Why? Well, let’s look at the numbers.
Specifically, my bullish case can be broken down into a few different parts.
First, for those that don’t already know, UEFA is switching up the Champions League format. This coincides with the new media rights package in 2024/25, and it will give US broadcast partners more games, more teams, and higher quality matchups.
For example, by increasing the tournament from 32 to 36 teams and the group stage games from 6 to 8 games, UEFA has created 63 additional matches. That means networks are now bidding on 189 games, not 125, and the new format should also produce more top-tier matchups against top-tier teams than ever before.
That obviously adds a premium to the package that didn’t previously exist.
New Champions League Tournament Format Starting in 2024/25 (source)
Increasing teams from 32 to 36
The new format guarantees teams will play at least 8 games, and most teams will play at least 10 games
Will include 4 pots of 9 teams
No drop downs for losers of the Champions League into the Europa League (second tier tournament)
Increasing group stage games from 6 to 8
This equates to an increase of games from 125 to 189
Secondly, the demand for this media rights package should be through the roof.
This is the first time companies can bid on Champions League TV rights for deals up to six years in length, instead of just the traditional three years, and we already know initial discussions have taken place with NBC, ESPN, CBS, Amazon, Apple, Fox, Warner Bros. Discovery Inc., Univision, and DAZN. And maybe all of those companies don’t end up submitting final bids, but the trend can’t be denied.
Cable providers are currently losing between 3 million and 5 million-plus customers annually, and according to data from Statista, the number of pay TV households decreased 22% from 100 million households in 2013 to 78 million households in 2020.
Combine this with the fact that live sports are currently the only thing holding the cable bundle together—94 of the top 100 US TV broadcasts in 2021 were sporting events—and you could see why cable providers feel the need to continue to get more aggressive with media rights bids, even while losing millions of subscribers annually.
And last but not least, UEFA couldn’t be selling these broadcasting rights at a better time. Soccer is one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States. The World Cup will be jointly hosted by Canada, Mexico, and the United States in 2026, and there is a severe lack of sports broadcasting rights coming up for sale over the next few years.
For example, the NFL has its partners in place until 2033. The NHL’s and MLB’s biggest packages are sold out until 2027-2028. Major League Soccer just signed a 10-year deal with Apple, and the Premier League & La Liga are booked until 2028.
That’s also great for the NBA, which is seeking a deal worth $75 billion over 9 years.
Lack of Major Sports Media Rights in the US
NFL: Signed deals worth $110 billion over 11 years with CBS, NBC, Fox, ESPN, and Amazon through 2033 (source)
MLB: Signed multiple national broadcast deals (excluding local team TV deals)
Deal with ESPN worth $3.85 billion over 7 years through 2028 (source)
Deal with Fox Sports worth $5 billion over 7 years through 2028 (source)
Deal with Turner Sports worth $3.2 billion over 7 years through 2028 (source)
Deal with NBC’s Peacock worth $60 million over 2 years through 2023 (source)
Deal with Apple worth $595 million over 7 years through 2028 (source)
NHL: Signed two national broadcast deals
NBA: Seeking new deal worth $75 billion over 9 years (source)
Currently in a deal worth $24 billion over 9 years with ESPN and Turner Sports
MLS: Signed deal worth a minimum of $2.5 billion over 10 years this year to broadcast all MLS games starting in 2023 through 2033-34 (source)
Other US broadcast rights deals for major global soccer leagues
English Premier League: Renewed deal with NBC in a deal worth more than $2.7 billion over 6 years through 2028-29 (source)
La Liga: Deal with ESPN worth $1.4 billion over 8 years through 2028 (source)
Serie A: Deal with CBS worth $225 million over 3 years through 2024 (source)
Ligue 1: Signed international rights deal that includes the US with beIN SPORTS worth $480 million over 6 years with a 50/50 split on revenue above the minimum figure through 2023-24 (source 1, source 2)
Bundesliga: Signed deal with ESPN worth a minimum $180 million over 6 years through 2026 (source)
Liga MX: League receives an estimated $110 million per year combined from FOX, Univision, and ESPN (contract length is undisclosed) (source)
So, to recap, I think UEFA ends up getting well north of $2 billion on a six-year deal for US media rights to the Champions League for several reasons, including a new format with more/better games, the continued increase in demand from cable providers and streaming players, and a severe lack of supply entering the market.
Maybe I’m wrong, or perhaps I’m right. But regardless of the final number, I think the bigger picture is clear: blue-chip sports organizations will continue to see their media rights increase over the next several years as cable providers and streaming services fight it out and ultimately push demand to levels that we haven’t previously seen.
I hope everyone had a great weekend. We’ll talk tomorrow.
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