NWSL Championship Lands in Primetime After Ally-CBS Deal

The NWSL’s championship match will air in primetime this October, a first for the 10-year-old league, reflecting viewership momentum and sponsor commitment.

The 2022 season finale will appear on CBS, beginning at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday, Oct. 29, from D.C.’s Audi Field. The network’s streaming service, Paramount+, will also broadcast the championship clash nationally, and Twitch will handle international distribution.

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The long-coveted Saturday night broadcast slot frees the NWSL from its original noon ET start—the same window the championship match was given last year by CBS. The late-November 2021 NWSL championship was originally scheduled for Providence Park in Portland, Ore., making for a 9 a.m. local start time. Pushback throughout the league prompted a move across the country to Kentucky’s Lynn Family Stadium,  an improvement but one that still generated anger over CBS’ prioritization of its college football obligations. (CBS averaged 5.2 million viewers per game over the 2021 college football season).

Despite the start time, the Washington Spirit’s 2021 championship-clinching match averaged 525,000 viewers, a 216% increase in over 2019’s title game. NWSL viewership continued to impress into the 2022 season, with this spring’s preseason Challenge Cup clash between newcomers Angel City FC and the San Diego Wave drawing 456,000 viewers. The California showdown rang in as the NWSL’s sixth-largest television audience. The momentum sent team valuations soaring and increased demand for future expansion clubs.

Still, the league needed help to secure a better broadcast window for this year’s finale. The game-time change was the result of a “recent collaborative effort,” the league said, between CBS and Ally, the match’s title sponsor, which sweetened the financial pot for CBS. Specific terms were not disclosed.

“We knew it was important to create a pathway to prime time for this year’s NWSL championship game,” Andrea Brimmer, Ally’s chief marketing and public relations officer, said in a statement. “We increased our media investment with CBS to help make it happen.… This is a huge win for the fans, for the players and the league, and for all brands that invest in women’s sports.”

Ally joined the NWSL’s sponsor roster in early 2021, also helping underwrite the cost of expanding the playoffs from four games to six last season.

The NWSL finale won’t be the only primetime women’s soccer match to air this fall. Fox recently announced plans to air the U.S. Women’s National Team’s highly anticipated sellout match against England at Wembley Stadium in October on its main network. Monster ratings could mean better slots for more women’s soccer and women’s sporting events more broadly.

Across the globe, networks are taking note of increasing viewership and attendance in women’s soccer.

“We are thrilled to present the NWSL Championship Game in prime time, creating more exposure and reach for this fantastic league as we showcase the best in soccer to a passionate fanbase as well as a new audience,” said Dan Weinberg, executive vice president, programming at CBS Sports.

The 2022 playoffs for the 12-team NWSL will start Oct. 15 and air across CBS Sports Network and Paramount+. The semifinals will air on CBS Sports Network ahead of the championship match on CBS. In primetime.

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