The NWSL has announced their new TV deal this morning.
Unlike past seasons, it is not a handful of games on Fox Sports at the end of the season.
Instead the league will feature one game a week on the Lifetime channel. The games will air on Saturdays at at 4 pm EST with a pregame show at 3:30 pm. The remaining games will air on the newly minted NWSL Media.
According to the press release NWSL Media is still finishing hammering out details with possible partners for streaming.
“NWSL Media will oversee the live streaming of all matches and produce the games in high definition with a consistent, state-of-the-art approach that will include exclusive new and original digital content for pre-game, halftime and post-game segments. The joint venture is currently negotiating with potential partners to stream the games not broadcast on Lifetime.”
The NWSL returned to YouTube to stream the event live, slightly ironic as that platform is likely done as far as game access goes.
The event had plenty of NWSL star power in attendance, with NWSL commissioner Jeff Plush, A+E President and CEO Nancy Dubuc, USSF President Sunil Gulati, and a group of NWSL players that included Rose Lavelle (Boston Breakers), Steph McCaffrey and Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Kristie and Sam Mewis (Washington Spirit and NC Courage, respectively), Lynn Williams (NC Courage), and former USWNT Captain Christie Rampone (Sky Blue FC).
Quoted in the press release, Jeff Plush sounded thrilled with the deal, as did partners Nancy Dubuc and Sunil Gulati.
“This is a transformational partnership in the evolution of the league, and we are so appreciative of Nancy Dubuc and her team at A+E Networks as they take a leadership position in the growth of our league and create opportunities for young women,” NWSL Commissioner Jeff Plush said. “We are also extremely pleased to be able to present our fans with the most comprehensive national television and streaming packages in our history.”
“As a former college athlete, I know the importance of sports in the lives of women and girls and I couldn’t be more thrilled to join forces with NWSL and U.S. Soccer to ensure professional women athletes are elevated as the entire country can watch and be inspired by their strength and athleticism. The teams are filled with some of the best professional players in the world, and we are proud to welcome them to Lifetime,” said Nancy Dubuc, President and CEO, A+E Networks.
“This partnership is not only tremendously significant in the continued growth of the NWSL, but representative of how far the league has come in four years and where it can go in the future,” said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati. “A+E and its resources are a fantastic fit for women’s professional soccer and will have a major impact on continuing to raise the profile of what we feel is already the best and most competitive league in the world.”
The TV deal is likely not to satisfy everyone. There is no telling yet how the digital content will be provided or if international fans will be left out in the cold. Also unclear is whether playoff games will be aired on the channel or whether they will be featured on elsewhere. But no matter what, this deal does mark a significant step forward for the league, with a three-year term that signals confidence on both sides.
Women’s soccer, Lifetime has told the sports world, is worth our attention.