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NWSL can use growing audience as ‘ammo’ for new TV deal

Kansas City Current goalkeeper Adrianna Franch greets a young fan after a game. (EM Dash/USA TODAY Sports)

The NWSL will bring plenty of “ammo” to the bargaining table for its next TV deal, Angel City FC lead investor Alexis Ohanian said.

The league’s current broadcast rights deals expire at the end of the 2023 season. Those deals — with CBS, worth $4.5 million, and with Twitch, worth more than $1 million — appear to be undervalued compared to other sports broadcast deals.

While streaming figures are confidential and a majority of the league’s games streamed on Paramount+ and Twitch, its games on CBS drew audiences ranging from 349,000 to 461,000. That’s right on pace with MLS, which drew an average of 343,000 viewers on ABC and ESPN.

“When we were given CBS as the stage, we either competed with, matched or even outperformed the MLS,” Ohanian told Reuters. “Facts over feelings. When we’re put on that stage, the fans show up. So I think we’re going to have a lot of good ammo to go into that negotiation.”

MLS recently signed a deal with Apple TV earlier this year worth $250 million per season. Its current deal with Fox and ESPN, which expires at the end of its 2022 season, pays a combined $75 million per year.

“They essentially set a mark now where, yes, our league is not as big, we’re a fraction of the size in terms of teams and age, but we’re already putting up some great numbers,” Ohanian said.

This comes as FIFA has rejected bids for the 2023 Women’s World Cup broadcast rights because they were too low. Both attendance and viewership in women’s soccer has skyrocketed since the 2019 World Cup, which drew 1.12 billion viewers combined.

“Audience figures show that the Women’s World Cup 2019 in France was a catalyst for change in terms of TV audience,” Romy Gai, FIFA’s chief partnerships and media officer, told Bloomberg. “We know the opportunity for women’s football is there. Now, together, we need to capture it.”

NWSL team valuations appear to be on the rise as well.

Even amid the fallout from the U.S. Soccer report on NWSL abuse, the Portland Thorns could garner a record sale price.

Meanwhile, the Washington Spirit sold for $35 million in February, while Gotham FC was valued at $40 million in August. And per Sportico, Ohanian’s own Angel City FC is valued at more than $100 million.