The National Women’s Soccer League announced a landmark national TV deal with A+E Networks today. League matches will be shown on Lifetime once a week during every week of the season. The terms of the three-year deal also see A+E Networks taking an equity stake in the NWSL, while Lifetime will become the league’s official broadcast partner. Along with the TV deal, the NWSL and A+E will jointly create NWSL Media, a new media and commercial venture that will involve streaming games, a smartphone app, and the management of international broadcasting and sponsorships.
The NWSL Game of the Week will air on Saturdays at 4:00pm Eastern, and will include a half-hour pre-game show. As we’ve seen with MLS, providing a game on a consistent day and network helps create more of an “appointment viewing” feeling around a given match.
For the fledgling league, an improvement over previous TV deals - in 2015 and 2016, Fox Sports 1 carried six games during the entire season - is a welcome sign of progress. The new deal will have shown six games nationwide by the middle of May. On top of that, adding a new league investor with an equity stake gives the NWSL more financial strength, something that should add to an increasing sense of stability for a league that made history by simply surviving for four full seasons.
Aside from the readily-available Saturday games showing on a network found on nearly all basic cable/satellite packages, the creation of NWSL Media will be what fans interact with most. Per a press release from the league and A+E, NWSL Media will also involve a revamped league website, and streamed games will consistently be available in high definition.
A staple of following the NWSL has been watching games on Youtube. According to today’s press release, “The joint venture is currently negotiating with potential partners to stream the games not broadcast on Lifetime.” It remains to be seen whether those games will be free to watch, or if there will be a subscription package similar to MLS Live.