Uefa is aiming to double the value of the US media rights to the Champions League, as European football authorities look to cash in on the sport’s growing popularity in the world’s biggest economy.
The media rights to the Champions League, Europe’s most prestigious club competition, as well as the Europa League and the Uefa Conference League, could fetch at least $2bn over six years, according to people familiar with the matter.
Uefa, which organises the Champions League, the European Club Association, and US agency Relevent Sports Group are selling a six-year package for the rights, starting in the 2024-25 season.
The existing deal with CBS and Univision is worth about $150mn a year, a figure Uefa reckons it can at least double. Bids, which are due by August 15, will be assessed on a range of factors, including price and the distribution network to reach new audiences.
The auction is the next test of the value of football in the US market, where deep-pocketed broadcasters and streaming companies are competing for audiences and subscribers.
Relevent, which is managing the tender, has the benefit of selling the rights for six years rather than just three. In contrast to Europe, longer media contracts are commonplace in the US, allowing broadcasters to promote and enhance the appeal of a particular competition.
Uefa is gambling that the commercial appeal of the rights will prove resilient in the face of a US economy hit by higher inflation and slowing consumer spending.
The next broadcast cycle also coincides with the expansion of the Champions League, which will feature 36 teams rather than 32. A record 5.2mn US viewers watched Real Madrid beat Liverpool 1-0 to win the Champions League final in May.
The English Premier League, Europe’s richest domestic football division, in November sold the US broadcast rights to its matches to Comcast’s NBC for about $2.7bn over six years, almost trebling the value of its previous contract.
That followed Walt Disney-owned ESPN’s acquisition of the US media rights to Spain’s La Liga in an eight-year contract worth $1.4bn.
The US is a vital market for European football leagues and clubs looking to grow in the world’s biggest entertainment market.
Uefa appointed Relevent in February to sell the US media rights to the Champions League and its other competitions, whereas Swiss sports rights agency TEAM Marketing is the governing body’s global partner.
Earlier this month, Amazon and BT Sport acquired the UK rights to the Champions League from 2024. The new three-year deal values the rights to the Champions League, the Europa League and the Europa Conference League in the UK at about £1.4bn, up from about £1.2bn.
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