With preseason training just weeks away and the start of the 2019 regular season in less than two months, the National Women’s Soccer League announced today that their partnership with A+E Networks is coming to a premature end.
The initial three year agreement was announced in 2017. As part of the agreement, A+E Networks purchased an equity stake in the league. They also became a major sponsor, and the Lifetime cable network served as the premier broadcast home for both regular season games and the NWSL Championship. While Lifetime will remain a sponsor— and their logo will continue to be featured on player kit sleeves— the network will no longer air matches.
In a statement, the league and the network described the split as “amicable.”
“A+E Networks and Lifetime were proud to support the amazing athletes of the NWSL and to have produced a first-class Game of the Week production that highlighted their amazing talents,” said A+E COO and CFO David Granville-Smith. “We are excited to continue to support the league with the sleeve sponsorship in 2019 and look forward to seeing the NWSL grow in the years to come.”
Queen Regent President Amanda Duffy also struck a diplomatic tone regarding the split.
“Our two seasons with A+E were rewarding for our league, players, sponsors and fans, just as we had anticipated, and the experiences on the path we traveled with a national television partner have served NWSL well today and will for the future,” said Duffy. “The continued support from Lifetime through the sleeve sponsorship speaks to the authenticity and strength of the partnership we forged during these past two seasons. NWSL is a pioneering league, still in its infancy, as it builds and evolves to become the premier women’s league in the world’s most popular sport.”
As of now, the only broadcast and streaming option for the 2019 NWSL season will be Yahoo!Sports, while international fans will continue to stream through the league website and official app.
UPDATED 3:20PM CST: Per Jonathan Tannenwald, A+E is relinquishing their equity stake in the league.
The big change for the NWSL isn’t the end of the Lifetime TV deal. It’s NWSL owners taking back the 25 percent equity stake that A+E had in the league.— Jonathan Tannenwald (@thegoalkeeper) February 20, 2019
"This is a NWSL that has more control over its future,” Amanda Duffy says:https://t.co/qj6zz5mepS pic.twitter.com/r9P4CFkQSd
Meanwhile, the NWSL Players Association released a statement responding to the news.