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Archive for February 20, 2019

Feb. 20, 2019 — Fool me twice

For the third time, women’s soccer has shown its inability to draw ratings on a non-sports network. It was announced today that the National Women’s Soccer League is cutting ties with Lifetime and its corporate partner, A&E. Though the NWSL’s uniforms will retain a circular patch on the sleeve with the Lifetime logo on it, the agreement currently leaves the eight-team circuit without a leaguewide television partner.

Lifetime had previously partnered with the Women’s United Soccer Association almost 20 years ago, and Oxygen had partnered with Women’s Professional Soccer in the late 2000s. Both networks saw low ratings in their first go-rounds in broadcasting women’s soccer, which was, frankly, predictable.

Neither network invested a lot of money in either in-house or cross-network advertising, and I think both Oxygen and Lifetime counted solely on the gender of the participants rather than the competition, the stories, or the drama of the late-season playoff races in order to draw viewers.

Without a national television deal (albeit the games are being distributed by Yahoo), there is unspoken pressure on the U.S. women’s national soccer team to win the 2019 Women’s World Cup, a tournament which ends about six weeks before the end of the season, and it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that ESPN, NBC, or Fox could broadcast the stretch drive to the playoffs as well as the postseason.

Given the uncertainties over the offseason in the NWSL, having a permanent TV home is an indicator of corporate stability — something you couldn’t say for much of the last 18 years of USSF Division I women’s soccer.