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BBC and Sky nearing one-year WSL rights renewals

The terms of renewal are reportedly same but long extension also on cards

The public-service broadcaster, BBC, and pay-TV giant, Sky, are reportedly on the verge of securing one-year extensions to their existing Women’s Super League (WSL) coverage deals. The English soccer’s top-tier WSL matches will continue to be aired domestically in the 2024-25 campaign by its current media rights partners.

According to reports from the reports, this move is seen as a short-term solution that allows league organizers and interested broadcasters more time to negotiate a longer-term set of deals from 2025-26 onwards. The tender process for the next set of domestic WSL broadcast rights was launched recently; however, no agreements have been disclosed around live coverage of the 12-team league.

Current deal heavily titled in Sky Sports’ favour

The current three-season WSL domestic rights cycle began ahead of the 2021-22 campaign. Sky and BBC struck deals that had a combined total value exceeding $11 million per season as estimated by reports. As part of these agreements, Sky will be able to show up to 44 live games per season, while BBC can show up to 22 live games per season.

This season has seen both broadcasters secure record audiences for their WSL coverage. Notably, BBC broke through one million peak viewers across linear and digital platforms during its coverage of Chelsea's triumphant in the Liverpool fixture in November.

In addition to viewing records being broken this year, attendance records at matches have also been surpassed. So far this season, over 717k fans have attended a match - an increase from last year's record-setting attendance figure of approximately 689k fans.

New Governance structure can change the dynamics of deal

November marked another significant development when all clubs across both tiers agreed on creating a new club-owned structure called NewCo (working title) to run the leagues from 2024-25. This new structure will take over from the Football Association (FA), which has managed the WSL since its inception 13 years ago.

NewCo, with each club in the top two tiers becoming a shareholder, will be led by former NIKE executive and investment banker Nikki Doucet as its first chief executive. The FA had previously expressed in 2018 that it did not intend to manage WSL long-term and was open to proposals for an alternative governance structure.

Reports suggest that once NewCo is fully operational and managing the top two leagues, a more lucrative long-term domestic broadcast deal can be negotiated. Additionally, changes may be made to when WSL fixtures are scheduled across weekends under a new deal. Currently, most WSL games occur on Sunday afternoons; however, Friday and Saturday evening slots are being considered as potential alternatives.

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