The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) just announced a four-year television contract with four networks that will combine to air 118 matches per season.
The NWSL formed in 2012 and has seen its popularity surge, with in-person attendance rising 32% this year compared to 2022.
As part of the new television deal, Ion will carry 50 matches as part of 25 Saturday doubleheaders. Ion will also air a 30-minute studio show before each doubleheader.
Prime Video will broadcast 27 matches per season, including one playoff game. CBS will have a minimum of 21 games annually, including the NWSL championship. ESPN and ABC will air 20 matches a year, including 17 regular season and two playoff games.
The broadcast deals should mean a large percentage of NWSL matches will appear on national TV. The league had 132 regular season matches in 2023, but that number will likely grow as two new franchises begin play in 2024.
“These partnerships fundamentally change the game for our league and the players who take the pitch each week. On behalf of the NWSL, our owners and players, I want to commend CBS Sports, ESPN, Prime Video and Scripps for investing in our league and affirmatively declaring to the marketplace that this league is exciting, valuable, and important,” said NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman. “We have taken great care to ensure our games are discoverable by increasing our reach in order to expose new audiences to everything that makes our league special, without compromising the economic value of our product. This is the beginning of our future.”
The addition of NWSL matches is a big boost to Ion, which also began airing WNBA matches this year. It could also be seen as a win for fans as Ion is available for free with an antenna in 94% of U.S. households.
The E.W. Scripps Company is the parent company of both Ion and Scripps News.
“Scripps Sports is pleased to create a franchise night on ION for the NWSL that will reach every American household, across every free television platform and further help expand the league’s fan base with appointment viewing consistency,” said Adam Symson, president and CEO of The E.W. Scripps Company. “We’re proud once again to be a part of a historic distribution agreement that will elevate women’s professional sports, benefitting the league, the teams, their athletes and fans.”
The NWSL’s announcement comes prior to potentially one of the biggest nights in league history. The NWSL will hold its championship match Saturday, with OL Reign facing Gotham FC.
Not only will a championship be on the line, but it will mark the final professional matches for two U.S. soccer legends — Gotham’s Ali Krieger and Reign’s Megan Rapinoe.