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Champions League games in U.S. ‘routinely talked about’, CBS Sports president says

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David Berson, the president and CEO of CBS Sports, has revealed that UEFA competition games taking place in the United States is an idea that the network would welcome, adding that it is also “something UEFA would like.”

UEFA’s major club competitions such as the Champions League and Europa League are broadcast on CBS Sports television network and via their Paramount+ streaming platform. Later this year, Paramount Global (the owner of the CBS network) will begin a new six-year deal in a total package worth $1.5billion, which breaks down to $250m per season. This represented a dramatic increase on the $100m per season previously paid by Paramount and Univision.

The Athletic has previously reported that several leading European club executives, including the Paris Saint-Germain chairman Nasser Al-Khelaifi, are supportive of ideas to take meaningful matches outside of Europe. In April 2022, Al-Khelaifi told The Athletic that in his role as chairman of the European Club Association — which represents clubs who routinely compete in UEFA club competitions — that clubs are thinking about all kinds of initiatives to grow their international media rights, including “new venues, new markets, new formats.”

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin previously told the Men in Blazers podcast that Champions League matches in the US is a possibility. Another option discussed by UEFA previously includes an opening tournament to take place outside Europe at the start of the season to replace the UEFA Super Cup, which currently pits the winner of the Champions League against the winner of the Europa League.

The possibility of taking one-off fixtures outside of their usual jurisdictions increased earlier this year when world governing body FIFA were dropped from a landmark lawsuit by the U.S. events promoter Relevent, who in 2018 were thwarted in their attempts to take a La Liga fixture between Girona and Barcelona to Miami in the United States. A five-year court battle saw Relevent, founded by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, accuse FIFA of acting as a monopoly and preventing fair competition.

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FIFA’s directive, issued in 2018, said that domestic games ought to be played in their home territory, but FIFA and Relevent settled on their case, with FIFA prepared to revisit its policies on this issue. This then moved another step closer two weeks ago at the FIFA Congress when the world governing body approved a working group to look into potential changes to its rules.

FIFA announced that 10 to 15 members representing national associations, confederations, clubs, leagues, players, supporter groups and “private entities” will convene to make recommendations on the matter “in the following months”. The working group will consider changes to the rules for “authorising interclub football matches or competitions” and the criteria to be applied for signing off such matches or competitions.

During a press conference to promote CBS Sports network and Paramount+’s coverage of this weekend’s UEFA Champions League final between Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, CBS Sports’ president and CEO Berson began by outlining the value of the Champions League to CBS, detailing the growth secured in the US market this season, particularly through a studio show presented by Kate Abdo and led by analysts Thierry Henry, Jamie Carragher and Micah Richards.

UEFA Champions League Today


Paramount Global are set to begin a new six-year deal to show the Champions League (Robbie Jay Barratt – AMA/Getty Images)

He said: “This Champions League final culminates another extremely successful year for our UEFA coverage. Our Champions League studio show has become must watch television. It’s also a huge hit on social media with more than 3.5 billion — that’s billion with a B — video views across social platforms. The Champions League continues to be a differentiator across all our platforms. This has been our most streamed season ever in Paramount+ with double digit growth in household streaming minutes and average minute audience.

“The quarterfinal match between Real Madrid and Man City on April 17th was the most streamed soccer match ever on Paramount+ and it was the most watched quarterfinal match ever in US English language television history. April is the best month ever for Champions League on the service, driving more subscriptions than in any other month. Since we’ve had it, it’s routinely a top five driver of Paramount+.”

He was then asked by The Athletic if any discussions have taken place with UEFA over more meaningful access for US football supporters and games to take place in the US, or the idea of the opening tournament.

“It’s a good question and you’re right,” Berson said. “That is something that is routinely talked about. We have nothing to say along those lines at this moment in time, but I would not be surprised if over the course of these next six years, you’ll see that in play. It’s something we welcome. I think it’s something UEFA would like.

“But again, there’s, there’s nothing to report along those lines just yet. We’re really thrilled with the coverage of this sport in this country and I give NBC and the Premier League credit as well. Overall the sport is resonating a lot with these young fans. And we’re thrilled with this property, the greatest club tournament in the world. We think there’s a tremendous amount of upside.

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“To see where we were just a few years ago, starting from the ground floor with nothing and to where we’ve come in just a few short years, I couldn’t be any more pleased that the other folk in this call that are really getting a ton of the credit for creating a show that is so authentic. It’s entertaining, it’s insightful. It’s lots of fun and can hit real topics, serious topics, fun topics that cover the game unlike any other. So I’m really thrilled and I think opportunities such as bringing games to the States or, if not, that’s fine too. But I think there’s a tremendous amount of upside and we’re thrilled. We haven’t even started our new six-year deal yet.”

Berson’s comments follow The Athletic’s interview with Jon Miller earlier this month, in which the leading executive at NBC Sports and an instrumental figure in negotiating the network’s multi-billion dollar media rights deal with the Premier League, said he will “continue to push for” the first English top-flight games to be played in the United States.

Miller, NBC Sports’ president of acquisitions and partnerships, was asked if he would be supportive of matches heading to the US to further connect English football with its American audience. He said: “Very much so. And this is a point that we’ve had conversations with the Premier League and they’ve been very open and receptive to listening to me.”

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(Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

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