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NWSL, A+E Networks announce new partnership, broadcast deal

Lifetime will be an official sponsor and broadcast partner of the NWSL in an historic three-year deal.

NWSL announced a new deal with A+E Networks to broadcast and stream all NWSL matches through 2019.
graphic by NWSL

In a joint press conference held by the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and A+E Networks, it was announced that Lifetime, one of the nation’s leading women’s media brands, will become an official sponsor and the official broadcast partner of the NWSL in a three-year agreement, the longest of any broadcast deals in league history. That deal goes into effect at the start of the 2017 NWSL season in April.

Lifetime will broadcast the NWSL Game of the Week on Lifetime every Saturday of the season at 4 p.m. EST, with a pre-game show preceding each Game of the Week by 30 minutes. All official NWSL jerseys will also feature a Lifetime patch on the right sleeve to showcase the network as a league sponsor.

“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 of A+E Networks, in a statement released by the NWSL.

“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.”

For the games not featured as the Game of the Week, the two entities will be launching NWSL Media, which will oversee the live streaming of all matches to ensure quality—all matches will be streamed in high definition—and consistency, as well as including new pregame, halftime and post-game segments. NWSL Media is currently in negotiations with potential streaming partners for the games not broadcast on Lifetime. However, the deal suggests that NWSL matches free streamed on YouTube will almost certainly be a thing of the past.

A+E Networks has joined with the NWSL for more than just broadcast rights. The entity has also become a league investor with an equity stake in the league, joining the existing ownership groups. Together the new partnership will also be launching NWSL Media, which will be managing the league’s digital assets, starting with a redesign of the league website (NWSLSoccer.com), launching a new NWSL app for both iOS and Android and managing the league’s social media platforms.

In previous years, the NWSL joined with FOX (2013, 2015 and 2016) and ESPN (2014) to broadcast a handful of games live every season, but those deals were limited to three regular season matches and the three post-season playoff matches.