A new media venture between the National Women’s Soccer League and A+E Networks was announced Thursday morning in New York City.
A+E Networks will become a major investor in the league, while Lifetime will become an official sponsor and broadcast partner.
"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," NWSL Commissioner Jeff Plush said in a news conference. "We are also extremely pleased to be able to present our fans with the most comprehensive national television and streaming packages in our history."
NWSL matches will be featured every weekend on Lifetime with the NWSL Game of the Week.
Additionally, the league announced the formation of NWSL Media, a joint commercial venture between the league and A+E, which will oversee global broadcast and sponsorship rights, digital assets, and launch an NWSL App for iOS and Android platforms.
NWSL Media will also oversee all live streaming and production of NWSL matches, with pre-game, halftime, and post-game segments, and the league is currently negotiating with other potential broadcast partners.
This deal represents a significant expansion is the NWSL’s brand and national exposure. The NWSL has previously had limited broadcast deals with ESPN and Fox Sports to televise the NWSL Playoffs and select late season matches, while other matches were streamed live on YouTube, but these broadcasts were often fraught with a variety of issues, including a lack of production standards and broken streams.
NWSL Press Release
NWSL AND A+E NETWORKS ANNOUNCE HISTORIC PARTNERSHIP
A+E Networks invests in NWSL with equity stake and together launch NWSL Media, a new media and commercial joint venture; Lifetime to be official sponsor and broadcast partner of the league in a three-year deal
CHICAGO (Feb. 2, 2017) - The National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) and A+E Networks have entered an historic partnership whereby A+E Networks will become the league's newest investor with an equity stake in the National Women's Soccer League, joining the existing team ownership groups. As one of the leading women's media brands, Lifetime, will become an official sponsor and broadcast partner of the league in a three-year deal, beginning in April. The strategic investment is accompanied by the creation of a new joint venture, NWSL Media, and marks a watershed moment in the league's history that will bolster the league's growth and support of the teams, players and fans.
"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," NWSL Commissioner Jeff Plush said. "We are also extremely pleased to be able to present our fans with the most comprehensive national television and streaming packages in our history."
"As a former college athlete, I know the importance of sports in the lives of women and girls and I couldn't be more thrilled to join forces with NWSL and U.S. Soccer to ensure professional women athletes are elevated as the entire country can watch and be inspired by their strength and athleticism. The teams are filled with some of the best professional players in the world, and we are proud to welcome them to Lifetime," said Nancy Dubuc, President and CEO, A+E Networks.
"This partnership is not only tremendously significant in the continued growth of the NWSL, but representative of how far the league has come in four years and where it can go in the future," said U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati. "A+E and its resources are a fantastic fit for women's professional soccer and will have a major impact on continuing to raise the profile of what we feel is already the best and most competitive league in the world."
NWSL Media, the new joint venture between the NWSL and A+E Networks, will act as the media and commercial arm of the league, overseeing all of its global broadcast and sponsorship rights. In addition, NWSL Media will manage all digital assets for the NWSL including a re-designed NWSLSoccer.com, a new NWSL app on iOS and Android, and the league's social media platforms.
NWSL Media will oversee the live streaming of all matches and produce the games in high definition with a consistent, state-of-the-art approach that will include exclusive new and original digital content for pre-game, halftime and post-game segments. The joint venture is currently negotiating with potential partners to stream the games not broadcast on Lifetime.
Lifetime, the premier entertainment destination for women, is making an unprecedented commitment with a three-year agreement to be the official broadcast partner. For the first time in NWSL's history, a league game will be broadcast on television every weekend of the season. The NWSL Game of the Week on Lifetime will provide fans throughout the country with a live viewing platform every Saturday at 4 p.m. ET to watch the best players in the world. A pre-game show will kick off each weekly event at 3:30 p.m. ET. Showcasing the network's sponsorship and commitment to the league, Lifetime will be featured on all official jerseys with a patch on the right sleeve.
Founded in December 2012, the NWSL is a 10-team Division-I women's professional soccer league set to kick off an historic fifth season in 2017 with support from the Canadian Soccer Association and United States Soccer Federation.
Established as an eight-team league, the NWSL has expanded twice - with the Houston Dash entering the league for the 2014 season and the Orlando Pride added ahead of the 2016 campaign. The league will welcome a new fan base in 2017 with the Flash relocating to become the North Carolina Courage.
The Portland Thorns FC claimed the first league title in 2013 with a victory over the Western New York Flash in the inaugural NWSL Championship Game. FC Kansas City followed with back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015 thanks to a pair of wins against Seattle Reign FC in the final. In 2016, the Flash returned to the championship game and became the first No. 4 seed to win the league title after twice rallying from a one-goal deficit against the Washington Spirit to force extra time and then penalties.
In the history of the league three clubs has captured the NWSL Shield, awarded to the club with the best record in the regular season, including Western New York (2013), Seattle (2014, 2015) and Portland (2016).