Ministry of Sport

CBS Doubles Down On Sports Rights… Is Australia Next?

Multiple reports have declared that US broadcasting giant, CBS, has secured the U.S. broadcast rights to the UEFA Champions League, hinting at possible signs of what’s to come in Australia.

CBS, the owner of Australian broadcaster Network Ten, is said to have acquired the league’s rights, which currently belong to Turner Sports, and will start airing coverage in 2021 through 2024.

Currently, Turner and Univision pay US$105 million a year for rights to the competition, but with those deals expiring at the end of the 2020/21 season, CBS is reportedly set to pay US$150 million per year with Univision in the new deal, although the cost split has not been reported.

CBS is expected to air games across its main broadcast channel, its sports network cable service and its eight million subscriber-strong All Access over-the-top (OTT) platform.

Whilst CBS has not aired any soccer since the now-defunct North American Soccer League (NASL), it does have a strong portfolio of sports rights including the National Football League’s (NFL) AFC broadcast package, Southeastern Conference (SEC) college football and the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) March Madness basketball tournament.

Optus Sport currently holds the rights to broadcast the UEFA Champions League here in Australia, but those rights are up at the end of the 2019/20 tournament.

There is a huge probability that Network Ten will bid for the UEFA rights, but after losing its Cricket Australia deal to broadcast the Big Bash League (BBL), missing out on the broadcast deal for the Hyundai A-League to ABC and only showing one-off events like the 2019 Rugby World Cup, the network is primed to bolster its live sports coverage and acquire the rights of a weekly national competition to challenge rival codes and networks.

Talking with The Australian earlier this year, Ten chief executive, Paul Anderson, indicated his network was ready to compete for rugby league rights when the ARL Commission heads to the market, possibly as early as next year.

“Major sports remain a part of our long term strategy — we have been a significant player in the past and there is no reason why this will change as attractive future rights become available,” Anderson said.

“Network 10 is part of a global media company that has a significant sporting legacy with franchises that are a very important part of their network.”

With CBS running global businesses worth more than $20 billion annually, money won’t be an issue.

Shaun Carney

Shaun Carney