Two weeks after Turner Broadcasting backed out of its ongoing deal to broadcast UEFA Champions League matches on television in the United States, a new broadcaster has stepped in to fill the void. Multiple outlets, beginning with World Soccer Talk, are reporting that CBS has acquired the American broadcast rights for the Champions League for the remainder of the 2019-20 season and the following 2020-21 campaign. This is in addition to already securing rights to the Champions League from 2021 through 2024.
Turner’s original deal gave them broadcast rights through next season, but they decided to opt out of their deal with UEFA in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the postponement/cancellation of matches this spring. The Champions League will resume with an 8-team “bubble tournament” in Lisbon, Portugal beginning August 12. CBS will stream all matches on their subscription streaming platform CBS All Access. There’s no info on which, if any, matches will be televised on the CBS family of TV channels, though you’d think that at least some of them would be.
It’s a change, but it could be one for the better. Football fans were decidedly underwhelmed by the quality of Turner’s Champions League coverage the past couple of seasons despite relying on Tottenham Hotspur superfan Steve Nash as part of its studio team.
In the short term CBS’s may not be much better as they’ll be scrambling to pull together a coherent coverage team with perhaps a month’s leeway. World Soccer Talk says that in the short term CBS will use the world feed for matches and will not have a dedicated broadcast team. One assumes this will change for the 2020-21 season.
CBS is expected to formally announce this acquisition sometime today. Univision and TUDN continue to have the Spanish language broadcast rights for Champions League games through the 2023-24 season.