NWSL announced the end of their TV broadcast deal with A+E Networks this past February, bringing to a close an interesting but ultimately unfruitful experiment. The Lifetime game of the week never really gained ratings traction (despite lead-ins from a variety of exciting movies where a mother/sister/daughter shoots her husband/stalker/kidnapper) and so after two years of a three-year agreement, the league and A+E ended things.
Since then, fans have wondered who, if anyone would take Lifetime’s place. TV broadcast is an important part of the league’s exposure and the money and resources that come with a network deal are important to maintaining a level of broadcast and production value. Free streaming on Yahoo and non-geoblocked streams for international fans are nice, but these are opt-in experiences that miss an opportunity to capture a wider audience via a traditional linear broadcast.
It was particularly worrying when the 2019 season kicked off without a TV deal in place, and it’s frustrating to see other women’s leagues successfully making the case for their place in the broadcast landscape, like the WNBA’s recently-announced multiyear deal with CBS Sports.
In response to an inquiry about what the league is doing to replace A+E, a spokesperson responded today, “The league is in the latter stages of discussions with a potential partner for the 2019 season.”
“Latter stages” is encouraging, if it’s anything more than comms speak for “We can’t tell you exactly where we are in negotiations but it’s past the handshake stage.” At the very least it says that the league is looking, and that someone is nibbling the bait. As of the writing of this article, the league didn’t comment on a timeline for finishing the deal or how many games they were looking to get broadcast, but we can hope for at least one game a week, although it would be nice to get multiple games each weekend.
In the meantime American fans can stream and rewatch games on demand at Yahoo! Sports while international fans can watch directly through the NWSL website.