Lifetime Network will become an official sponsor and broadcast partner of the National Women’s Soccer League in a three-year deal after its parent A+E Networks acquired an equity stake in the pro women’s soccer league. The new pact announced this morning includes the formation of a joint venture NWSL Media and will serve as a major boost to the fortunes of the young league — soon to start its fifth season — packed with some of the world’s best players.
The deal will include Lifetime airing a NWSL Game of the Week each Saturday of the upcoming 20-game season, which kicks off in April, along with a half-hour pregame show. The network’s logo will be featured on all official jerseys with a patch on the right sleeve.
The broadcasts will be done via NWSL Media, which will act as the media and commercial arm of the league overseeing its global broadcast and sponsorship rights. It will manage the live streaming production of all matches as part of taking on the league’s digital assets including a re-designed NWSLSoccer.com, a new NWSL app and social media platforms. The joint venture is negotiating with potential partners to stream the games not airing on Lifetime.
For the network, the deal is spot on for its target demo of younger women, who flock to watch the U.S. Women’s National Team which has been the best team in the world for years, winning three Women’s World Cups including in 1999, when it beat China in penalty kicks in front of 90,185 fans at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, a record for a women’s sporting event.
“As a former college athlete, I know the importance of sports in the lives of women and girls and I couldn’t be more thrilled to join forces with NWSL and U.S. Soccer to ensure professional women athletes are elevated as the entire country can watch and be inspired by their strength and athleticism,” said A+E Networks president and CEO Nancy Dubuc. “The teams are filled with some of the best professional players in the world, and we are proud to welcome them to Lifetime.”
The league is the latest effort to capitalize on the popularity of the sport, which scores strong ratings nationally during marquee events like the Women’s World Cup thanks to the usual dominance of the U.S. National Team. Getting a domestic league off the ground has proved more challenging — mostly to find funding and corporate backing to sustain operations and keep its talent from jumping oversees.
Its 10 teams are in major markets including New York/New Jersey, Chicago, Houston and Seattle as well as Portland, Kansas City, North Carolina, Orlando, and Washington. The league is supported by the Canadian Soccer Association and the U.S. Soccer Federation.
“This partnership is not only tremendously significant in the continued growth of the NWSL, but representative of how far the league has come in four years and where it can go in the future,” said U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati. “A+E and its resources are a fantastic fit for women’s professional soccer and will have a major impact on continuing to raise the profile of what we feel is already the best and most competitive league in the world.”