ViacomCBS Snares Serie A Rights for Paramount+ in $200 Million Deal

Anthony Crupi
·3 min read

Cristiano Ronaldo is coming to Paramount+, as news from overseas reveals that ViacomCBS has secured the U.S. rights to the Italian soccer league Serie A through 2024.

According to a tweet posted Tuesday afternoon by the journalist Marco Bellinazzo, who reports on all things “calico & business” for the Milan broadsheet Il Sole 24 Ore, CBS has paid “about 55 million” per year for the rights to carry Serie A matches here in the U.S. Although Bellinazzo did not specify a currency, the fact that he posted the scoop in his native Italian suggests that the reported price was in euros, which would bring the cost up to a little north of $65 million in stateside escarole, for a grand total of $195.6 million.

Bellinazzo also noted that CBS had outbid existing rights holder ESPN for the Serie A package, having bumped up its final offer from an initial bid of “around 40 [million].” Regardless of whose picture is on the money, that’s a 38% increase from CBS’ initial bid ($142.2 million in U.S. currency) to its final offer.

CBS declined to comment on the matter. Serie A CEO Luigi De Siervo less than an hour ago confirmed the deal to the Italian press, saying that the league had secured a 30% increase compared to its previous contract with ESPN.

ESPN acquired the Serie A package from reseller IMG in August 2018, or about a year before it snapped up the U.S. rights to Germany’s Bundesliga.

Four Serie A clubs are owned by American private equity funds and/or individuals, including A.C. Milan (Elliott Management Corp.), A.S. Roma (the Friedken Group), A.C.F. Fiorentina (Mediacom chairman and CEO Rocco Commisso) and Parma (Kraus Group), while the Canadian businessman Joey Saputo pulls the strings at Bologna F.C.

The addition of Serie A action to the Paramount+ lineup may well be the service’s most high-profile acquisition to date. When CBS last month gave investors a first look at its new streaming platform—Paramount+ replaced the original CBS All Access offering, which launched back in 2014—soccer played an outsized role in the company’s presentation. In addition to its established UEFA Champions League and NWSL packages, CBS bulked up its Paramount+ roster with the exclusive U.S. English-language rights to three additional soccer properties, including: a slate of more than 200 CONCACAF matches, including all FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifiers for the confederation’s member nations, as well as live matches from the premiere soccer organizations in Argentina (Primera División) and Brazil (Campeonato Brasileiro Série A).

“We’re doubling down on soccer for Paramount+,” said George Cheeks, president and CEO, CBS Entertainment Group, during the Feb. 24 presentation. “It’s the world’s most popular sport with billions of fans globally, and it’s growing rapidly here in the U.S. among young, diverse, enthusiastic digital natives, exactly the type of audience that’s drawn to streaming.”

Another benefit of loading up on soccer is that it’s a year-round undertaking, which should go a long way toward eliminating any off-season subscriber churn. Cheeks told investors that sports had served as “the No. 1 acquisition driver” for CBS All Access, before adding that UEFA “currently drives more new subscriptions than any sports partner except the NFL.”

CBS’ Serie A pickup comes on the heels of the broadcaster’s blockbuster $20.5 billion renewal of its Sunday NFL package. Coincidentally, the association’s confirmation of its new U.S. rights deal arrives just a day after Juventus said it would retain Ronaldo’s services after the end of this season. The 36-year-old star forward is currently the top scorer in Serie A with 23 goals.

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