NWSL announces new 4-year broadcast deal

NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman
NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman speaks during the 2023 NWSL Draft at the Pennsylvania Convention Center on January 12, 2023. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Two days before the 2023 championship match in San Diego, the National Women’s Soccer League unveiled its new four-year, $60 million media rights deal with CBS Sports, ESPN, Scripps (ION) and Amazon Prime Video.

The four-way deal is the largest media investment in women’s sports history.

The league has recently been broadcast exclusively by CBS Sports, with most of its matches hosted on CBS’s streaming service, Paramount+. This deal splits 118 matches across the four platforms and commits to four years with a prime-time national championship on CBS.

NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman said that a goal was to “not (put) our league behind an NWSL-specific paywall.” This deal contrasts with Major League Soccer’s 10-year partnership solely with Apple TV.

Where can you watch NWSL games? 

NWSL matches not broadcast by one of the four partners will be available on a direct-to-consumer platform produced by the league with local broadcast deals. Berman called this a “safety net” in terms of fans’ access to the games.

The league noted the expansion of Spanish-language broadcasts to ESPN and that the number of cameras used for each match will “double.” These additional angles can also be used for video review.

With games divided up on several different platforms, Berman acknowledged fans’ potential frustration toward the “unfortunate reality” that “all premier properties in today’s day and age have multiple partners.” 

However, Berman said the league and its partners will aim to provide united marketing and communication so that fans can locate games across the weekend. 

Prime Video will broadcast 25 Friday night matches, and ION will show two primetime Saturday night games each week, as well as a pregame show. ION recently began airing live sports with its WNBA Friday Night Spotlight on ION broadcasts.

Other implications of the deal

With Major League Soccer’s deal, Apple TV covers production costs. However, when asked by The Messenger’s Alex Azzi to clarify if the NWSL will shoulder production costs, Berman did not give a clear answer. The commissioner noted the league will be “reinvesting into, not just broadcast production, but also our players, our social media and all the (league) infrastructure,” alluding to some financial contribution toward production. 

The announcement also unveiled that next season’s NWSL playoffs will expand from this season’s six teams (out of twelve) to eight (out of fourteen). ESPN will broadcast two quarterfinal matches, while CBS and Prime Video will split the other pair. ESPN and CBS will each take a semifinal.

Looking ahead

CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus called the NWSL the network’s “shining star” of its women’s sports properties. The network will broadcast Saturday’s San Diego final at 8:00 p.m. ET. 

The deal’s timing through 2027 coincides well with the excitement around the 2027 Women’s World Cup and the U.S.-hosted 2026 Men’s World Cup, Berman noted.

Looking ahead, the league’s next focus is to “figure out our international rights,” said Berman.

“It is a huge priority for us knowing that there is a global audience from a business perspective in this global game, but also that there’s a global talent pool and we want to ensure that players and national team coaches or staff know that the NWSL is the best league in the world,” Berman said.

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