Paramount pays record $1.5bn to keep Champions League on CBS

Paramount has agreed to pay a record $1.5bn to extend its US English-language broadcast rights in the US for the Uefa Champions League, in the latest sign that football is making strides in an American market it has historically struggled to crack.

The deal, which according to people with knowledge of the situation is worth $250mn per season over six years, is 2.5 times the value of CBS’s previous contract with Europe’s flagship football competition.

“Due to ongoing contractual negotiations, we are not in a position to comment,” Uefa said.

Sean McManus, chair of Paramount’s CBS Sports division, said the Champions League had been a “key driver” of the US media company’s Paramount+ streaming service and that “we look forward to continuing to provide . . . best-in class coverage that our viewers expect”.

The agreement follows Comcast-owned NBC’s $2.7bn six-year deal to screen matches in the English Premier League, Europe’s richest domestic division.

Uefa’s broadcast deal, which starts from the 2024-25 season, is double the length of the current terms, a decision designed to incentivise broadcasters to invest for the long haul. It is in keeping with custom in the US, where broadcast deals typically last far longer than the three-year arrangements usually signed in Europe.

Uefa worked with US marketing agency Relevent Sports Group and the European Club Association to sell the rights not only to the marquee Champions League but also the Europa League and Uefa Europa Conference League, tournaments for teams outside the elite.

Relevent chief executive Daniel Sillman said the six-year agreement with Paramount “will allow us to fundamentally grow fandom across the fastest-growing soccer market in the world”.

The trio is running a separate process for the Spanish-language rights, which are valued at $50mn-a-year in the current deal with Univision. One of the people said the process could take up to 12 months.

European football leagues and clubs are increasingly targeting US viewers with the aim of turning them into life-long fans and increasing the value of international media rights. At the same time, US investors have bought into elite European football teams, including landmark deals this year involving Italy’s AC Milan and England’s Chelsea.

Clubs that are able to qualify for the Champions League will benefit from the increased media rights revenues. Uefa is expanding the competition from 2024 to feature 36 teams rather than 32, with changes to the format intended to result in more big-name matches.

A record 5.2mn US viewers watched Real Madrid beat Liverpool 1-0 to win the Champions League final in May.

Meanwhile, traditional broadcasters and streaming groups are showing increased willingness to pay up for elite sport as they battle each other to retain subscribers. CBS, Fox and NBC together agreed on Thursday to pay a record $7.5bn over seven years to broadcast US college sports from the Big Ten conference.

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