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NWSL Challenge Cup final draws record TV audience

NWSL Challenge Cup final draws record TV audience

July 29, 2020 By Juan Aguerrevere
The National Women’s Soccer League beat its domestic television ratings record by drawing an average audience of 653,000 viewers to the NWSL Challenge Cup final on the main CBS Network.

This is big news for women's professional soccer in the US, having just broken the previous record set last month during the opening game of the summer tournament that brought an average of 572,000 viewers on the CBS network.  

According to Showbuzz Daily, the NWSL Challenge Cup final was the second-most watched soccer game in the U.S. that week trailing the Premier League's Manchester United-Leicester City game that reached 750,000 viewers.

The tournament's opening match and final were the only two games that were broadcasted on the CBS Network. The remaining 21 matches were aired in CBS' streaming platform, CBS All Access. 

NWSL viewership saw a significant jump in the last month, given that the record prior to the NWSL Challenge Cup opening game sat at 190,000 viewers for a Portland Thorns-Houston Dash game in August 2014. The numbers never got close to the 190,000 mark until the 2019 NWSL championship game on ESPN that drew 166,000 viewers. 

The reason for the low viewership from the year 2014 through 2019 was simply the fact that the league struggled to secure a complete and reliable media rights deal. It wasn't until 2017 that the NWSL signed what looked to be a healthy three-year agreement with A&E Networks, in which the network would broadcast 22 regular season matches and three post-season matches. However, the deal succumbed in February 2019 after technical difficulties, changes in schedule and other problems.  

Nonetheless, the league signed agency Octagon to market its media rights in October 2019. And by March 11, 2020, the NWSL announced its current three-year media agreement with CBS Sports and Twitch.  

Originally, the 2020 NWSL regular season was supposed to be the start of the three-year media rights deal, but league commissioner Lisa Baird and other executives had to adjust given the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Challenge Cup marked the start of the deal between the league and CBS. 

The NWSL is yet to announce when or if it will hold a regular season in 2020.   


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