Yesterday, the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) announced a partnership with A+E Networks as the newest equity investor in the domestic soccer league. The three-year deal makes the Lifetime Channel an official sponsor and broadcast partner for the league’s historic fifth season. The Lifetime Channel will air one game each week throughout the 2017 season.
“This is a tremendously exciting day for the National Women’s Soccer League. We are on a journey to establish a sustainable, permanent women’s soccer league in the United States and Canada,” said Commissioner Jeff Plush during Thursday’s press conference at A+E Networks headquarters in Manhattan.
The NWSL Game of the Week on Lifetime will air each Saturday of the regular season, and include a 3:30 p.m. ET pre-game show, followed by the 4:00 p.m. kick-off. The deal also includes NWSL Media, a media and commercial branch of the league that will manage global broadcasting, sponsorship rights, and digital assets for the NWSL. The partnership will include a re-design to the league website (NWSLsoccer.com), the NWSL social media platforms, and a new NWSL app available for iOS and Android devices.
Only the game of the week is set to air on Lifetime. According to the league press release, NWSL Media will look to find other partners to stream games not aired on the Lifetime Channel. For the past four seasons, fans have been able to watch games online for free on the league’s YouTube channel. It is unclear what the new mobile app, as well as the forthcoming broadcast partnerships, will mean for the free and international access of NWSL games fans have enjoyed for the past four seasons.
While those details will be forthcoming, it is clear that the league, Lifetime and the players are excited for the new opportunities the partnership will bring. “This is a transformational partnership in the evolution of the league, and we are so appreciative of Nancy Dubuc and her team at A+E Networks as they take a leadership position in the growth of our league and create opportunities for young women,” stated Plush
“We are also extremely pleased to be able to present our fans with the most comprehensive national television and streaming packages in our history.”
A+E Networks also see potential to strengthen their brand through a unified message of female empowerment, “Being a female athlete is incredibly important to being a successful woman. And as a college athlete, I know the power of that, the power of what that gave me, and how that taught me to help be a CEO of a media company,” said Nancy Dubuc, President and CEO, A+E Networks. She added, “Sports are great, dramatic stories … we see a tremendous amount of overlap with our audience.”
Christie Rampone of Sky Blue FC was present at the announcement and spoke about the importance of the latest deal from a player perspective, “I’ve been through multiple [domestic] leagues and, having this partnership and the family between the NWSL and A+E means that, they’re committed to the growth of women’s soccer, which is huge and exciting for all the players,” said the former National Team captain.
Just before her remarks at the press conference, U.S Soccer President Sunil Gulati alluded that the long-awaited Rampone farewell match will take place next month, “I hadn’t seen Christie in quite a while, because she retired from the national team. But, she still playing [in the NWSL] and we’re gonna honor her in a month at a game …”
The US Women’s National Team is set to host the SheBelieves Cup in three locations early next month, including at Red Bull Arena in Rampone’s home state of New Jersey. The tournament will feature four of the top five women’s program in the world. On March 9, 2016, the United States defeated Germany 2-1 to win the inaugural SheBelieves Cup.
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