Soccer’s tremendous worldwide audience pull is making it both a proving ground and battleground for streaming services.
Case in point: Last December, in a memo to employees, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell reported that Peacock’s exclusive live broadcasts of Premier League games had been the biggest premium subscription draw for the new streamer.
Although concerns about streaming services’ consistency in countries with undependable internet service have posed some hurdles, increasingly, the services are prevailing in rights competitions — sometimes through legacy media owners, and sometimes against legacy media owners.
Last week, streaming services emerged as the victors in the most recent battles for a major prize: Italy’s Serie A soccer league games.
CBS Sports won exclusive rights in the U.S. for its new Paramount+ to stream more than 400 club matches live each season through 2024, featuring all 380 Serie A matches, at least 25 Coppa Italia matches (including all contests from the fourth knockout round on), and the Supercoppa Italiana match each year between the winners of Serie A and Coppa Italia.
Select matches will be televised each year on CBS Sports linear platforms, including CBS Sports Network. CBS Sports Digital will offer additional coverage and original programming and feature highlights across social channels and streaming sports network CBS Sports HQ.
Paramount+ now streams more than a thousand live matches each year across a wide portfolio of soccer properties, including Serie A, UEFA club competitions, NWSL, Concacaf Men’s World Cup Qualifiers and Liga Profesional de Fútbol.
The Serie A U.S rights are “another major step in the expansion of CBS Sports’ extensive lineup of live soccer coverage on Paramount+ and across our linear and digital platforms,” said Jeffrey Gerttula, executive vice president and general manager, CBS Sports Digital.
Meanwhile, London-based DAZN, known as “The Netflix of Sport,” has emerged the victor in a battle with Comcast’s Sky for the coveted primary rights to show Serie A games in soccer-passionate Italy.
Although the organizations shared the Italian rights under the expiring three-year deal, in which Serie A collects about 2.9-billion euros total, Sky held “the lion’s share’ of the rights, according to Reuters.
Now, the tables have turned, with DAZN — owned by billionaire Len Blavatnik — emerging as the main holder of what are still termed the “broadcast” rights for all the matches over three seasons (2021-2024).
DAZN offered 2.5 billion euros ($3 billion) of payments over the seasons, outbidding Sky’s bid to pay 2.25 billion euros to show the matches on its satellite and digital terrestrial TV platforms, per Reuters sources.
In a statement on Friday, Sky — which previously held the Serie A rights for nearly two decades — said it was “waiting for the league to fully complete the tender process, adding that it bids for content at a level that allows it to offer value to customers,” reported Bloomberg.
Reuters reported that Serie A was continuing talks through today with Sky about possibly screening three games per match day on a non-exclusive basis.
The rights negotiations process lasted for weeks, stymied by some Serie A clubs’ concerns about DAZN’s technological capabilities. DAZN reportedly won the support of most of the 20 teams after it secured 1 billion euros in tech and financial support from Telecom Italia SpA.