After hinting at some news over the last few days, the National Women's Soccer League held a live press conference today to announce a TV partnership with A&E Networks for the next three years. NWSL Commissioner Jeff Plush, President and CEO of A+E Networks, Nancy Dubuc and U.S. Soccer President, Sunil Gulati, were all on hand to make this announcement.
Most of the NWSL matches are due to be shown on the Lifetime channel which is available in the majority of the homes in the United States of America. This is not only the league's first major TV deal, but it also one that spans over multiple years.
A+E are all in, will also keeps available for international fans
In order for this partnership to work, the league and the network formed NWSL Media, which will be a joint venture that acts as the media and commercial arm of the league and also oversee the global broadcast and sponsorship rights of the NWSL. NWSL Media will also manage all digital assets for the league, including a redesigned website, a new app for both iOS and Android, as well as the league's social media platforms. The same venture will be managing theing of the matches along with hosting exclusive new and original content before, during and after matches. Finally, NWSL Media is currently negotiating with potential partners to matches that will not be broadcast on Lifetime.
Lifetime itself has a history with women's sports before the deal with the NWSL. The channel was home to the WNBA before they moved to ESPN and their owning platform so their continued support comes as no surprise for those familiar with the channel. What this deal means for the NWSL though, is that matches will be broadcast every weekend on the channel which, as previously stated, reaches a wide range of homes in the US. Lifetime will also have a NWSL Game of the Week every Saturday at 4 p.m. ET with a pre-game at 3:30 p.m. ET proceeding it.
Shifting the league'sing to a major US network has its benefits and pitfalls and when it comes to those who are not in the US, that was surely a major concern. According to to the livestream, as A+E gear towards its owning service,s of the NWSL matches would not be geo-blocked and thus, fans from across the world will still be able to tune into most matches during the season.
All parties hail the agreement and what it means for the future of the league
During the roughly 35 minute liveof the announcement, Jeff Plush commented on how "transformational" the partnership would be in the "evolution of the league". Plush also expressed that the league was also "extremely pleased" to be able to present fans with the "most comprehensive national television anding packages" in the league's short history so far.
Nancy Dubuc also commented on the deal, stating that as a former college athlete herself, she knows the "importance of sports in the lives of women and girls" and that she was happy to join forces with the league 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". Dubuc also voiced her opinion on the quality in the teams who she felt were "some of the best professional players in the world and that the network was proud to welcome them to Lifetime".
Gulati also took the time out to comment on the new deal, stating that not only was the deal "tremendously significant in the continued growth of the NWSL" but also showed just "how far the league has come in four years and where it can go in the future". The U.S. Soccer president also noted that due to A+E's resources as a major network that has a wide reach, it would have a "major impact on continuing to raise the profile" of the league.
Sunil Gulati also mentioned that a game would be held next month to honour Christie Rampone, who along with other notable NWSL players, was in attendance today at the press conference.