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Volume 26 No. 45
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CBS, Univision Land Champions League Rights In Surprising Deal

CBS and Univision picked up the rights to the UEFA Champions League for a three-year period from the fall of '21 to the spring of '24, according to multiple sources. Neither the networks nor the league would comment on the deal. Sources peg the average annual value of the three-year deal at around $150M combined; though it is not known how much each network is paying. The previous rights holders, Turner and Univision, were paying close to $100M per year combined. CBS picked up the UCL’s English-language rights and plans to carry games on its broadcast channel, CBSSN cable network and CBS All-Access OTT platform.

The fact that CBS won the bid is considered a shocking development to several sports business insiders, many of whom did not even know that the network was bidding on the rights. CBS’ stealth bid comes just months before the network’s merge with Viacom becomes official and has to be seen as a strong signal to the sports community that the network will become even more active in trying to get sports rights. The bid also represents a big vote of confidence by ViacomCBS in the CBS All Access platform. While other OTT services, like ESPN+, Peacock and HBO Max garner a lot of attention, CBS All Access quietly has amassed 8 million OTT subscribers, and the company now is adding top quality sports rights, like UCL, to it in addition to the marquee sports rights that already are on CBS.

Univision renewed its Spanish-language rights and plans to carry games on its broadcast and cable channels, much as it did in the prior deal. UCL moves off Turner’s B/R Live direct-to-consumer service after a three-year run. Sources said Turner made a bid to renew the deal, but it was not high enough. ESPN bid for both English and Spanish-language rights that it would carry on ESPN+ and its linear networks. NBC Sports Group and Telemundo Sports made their bid together. Fox Sports is believed to have put forward a bid, though it was not said to be as aggressive as some of the other media outlets.