The National Women's Soccer League dropped a surprising announcement today as many anticipated news about the 2019 schedule. Instead, the league announced that their partnership with A+E Networks was over effective immediately, despite a year still left on the original deal.
Also mentioned in the announcement was the fact that the 2019 NWSL schedule would be released tomorrow, February 21st.
The two parties seemed to have reached this conclusion amicably
Speaking to the NWSL official website, David Granville-Smith, COO and CFO at A+E Networks stated that the network had been "proud to support the amazing athletes of the NWSL" and to have helped produced the weekly Game of the Week segment for the league which helped to highlight players within the league. Granville-Smith also noted that the network would continue to support the league with their sleeve sponsorship despite the end of the broadcasting deal and looked forward to "seeing the NWSL grow in the years to come."
NWSL President Amanda Duffy also released a statement about the end of the deal, confirming that the last two season with A+E Networks had been "rewarding" for the league, players, sponsors and fans. Duffy also noted that the continued sleeve sponsorship spoke to the "authenticity and strength of the partnership" the NWSL and A+E had throughout the last two seasons.
Due to the end of the partnership, all of the NWSL's regular season matches for 2019 will be streamed on Yahoo!Sports while all those outside of North America will be able to continue watching the games on the NWSL app and NWSLSoccer.com. NWSL Media will also continue its operations overseeing the global broadcast and sponsorship rights of the league, as well as managing all digital assets including the NWSL social media platforms.
A better deal could be coming for the NWSL
The optics of this announcement may not look great based on previous attempts at creating a viable professional league for women's soccer in the United States of America but Howard Megdal believes that something better may be on the horizon for the NWSL. In his article for Forbes.com, Megdal states that the NWSL is now free of restrictions placed on them by A+E and that a source informed him the NWSL may have a great offer in place from NBC Sports Network which, if it comes to fruition, would be a fantastic move by the league. This deal could possibly be done after the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup this summer and if the United States Women's National Team win the World Cup, it will not take much to convince the network to go forward with their offer.
For anyone not familiar with NBC's sports platform, they have been in charge of broadcasting the English Premier League for the past five years in the US and have become one of the premier sports broadcasters in the time period. If they can apply the same quality and analysis of production into the NWSL, fans of the league will be in for a genuine product for the first time since the league was created. Obviously not having a national broadcaster so soon to the start of the new season is not ideal but if this leads to a new deal with NBC Sports Network, many may look upon this day as a watershed moment for the NWSL.
Quotes via NWSLSoccer.com