Cristiano Ronaldo. He’s Handsome, pretty good with a soccer ball and is going to be the driving force behind ESPN’s latest push toward soccer supremacy in the US market. Earlier this week the Walt Disney owned ESPN announced the multi-year broadcasting rights deal for the Italian League’s top flight: Serie A. The presser details the launch of ESPN+, the Networks subscription based Sports Platform, which will carry around nine live matches a week throughout the duration of the Serie A season ( Aug- May). With a designated Serie A TIM Match of the Week to be broadcasted on ESPN and ESPN 2.
Eager to grow their viewership bases, this looks like a win-win for both the Network and the League. Executive Vice President of Programing and Scheduling at ESPN, Burke Magnus said of the deal:
“The addition of Italy’s Serie A TIM underscores our ambitious goal of making ESPN+ home to the world’s biggest soccer leagues- and an indispensable destination for fans of the sport in the United States. With Ronaldo’s arrival to Serie A TIM, we anticipate even more interest and exposure for this property in the seasons ahead”
Continuing to ride the wave of excitement from this years World Cup, ESPN is dumping a significant amount of stock in the World’s most recognizable footballer Cristiano Ronaldo.
After his transfer from Real Madrid last month, CR7 has been a spark plug in terms of drumming up interest in the Italian giants, Juventus. In the 24 hour window following the signing of Ronaldo, his jersey produced a whopping $64.2 Million in revenue, (Almost half of his $129.3M Transfer Fee) over 1.5 Million new followers across Juventus’ Social Media accounts, and an increase in team shares to the tune of 40% according to a Alan Dawson of Business Insider. It looks pretty clear that Ronaldo will be the main attraction, but the league offers a slue of stars that only look to profit from this deal. At 6 on the Nielsen World Football Report 2018 is Juventus teammate Paulo Dybala. The 24 year-old Argentine Striker has already ascended to one of the game’s elite young talents. With exposure to the American market, his social rating looks to grow with his ability on the field. In the years since the English Premier League inked a deal for the broadcast rights with NBC, they have seen massive growth (see image below) in terms of team valuations and talent coming in. Serie A, pro to see similar growth in their top clubs and ascend to the level where they can persuade more top talents like Ronaldo and possibly Luka Modric to continue the history of the Italian League.
All in all, this deal has the potential to grow the interest of Soccer in America significantly, and is massive upgrade in terms of quality play. While NBC has the majority of eyes with exclusive rights to the English Premier League, and Fox with the Champions League, ESPN+’s streaming of Serie A gives soccer fans in America, which has been evaluated around 90 million according to Serie A President Gaetano Micciche. The Showcase games on Wednesdays are ESPN’s hope to capture fans in the mid-week sporting lull. Historic teams, a mix of young talent and established stars, coupled with an average 2.72 goals/ game is second only to LA Liga for goal frequency among the top-five European Leagues.
Come for the goals, or the Ronaldo. Either way this deal shows the interest in Soccer is increasing in American Audiences, and with any hope, can lead to the inspiration of the next generation of young soccer players. The kick-off to the Serie A TIM season begins Saturday, August 18th with Chievo Verona vs. Juventus on ESPN+ (12 p.m. ET)
For more information on ESPN+ click here to view their full media schedule.