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Official: ESPN to Broadcast Serie A in the United States

Big news for American Roma fans broke yesterday, as the league struck a deal with ESPN.

ESPN The Party - Inside Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for ESPN

With Real Madrid and Barcelona continuing to win the hearts and minds of football novices the world over, and living in a reality in which Italian teams have to compete with the likes of Everton and Fulham for talent, it was fair to question just where Serie A fell within the global pecking order. Gone were the days when Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan were the prestige clubs of the world, instead being replaced by the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, and Bayern Munich among others. Rather than pulling in top talent, Italian clubs were reduced to battling midtable British clubs for rather middling players.

Things have changed dramatically since the 1990s, the days when Italy was king and England was seen as a backwater of global football. However, it’s not as if Italians suddenly forgot to play the sport—take a look at how many of them coach abroad—but this inverse relationship was largely fueled by television coverage. The Premiership has become king of the hill thanks in large part to their international exposure, which precipitated the ungodly sums of money English clubs have at their disposal.

Meanwhile, poor little Italy, in addition to being embroiled in scandals of various sorts of the past two decades, has been saddled with some rather lackluster television coverage, at least outside of Italy. Hell, even within Italy they haven’t done well, as their domestic deal still falls behind some of their European rivals.

Serie A, like any other league in the world, salivates at the thought of conquering the still largely untapped American media market, and while they’re a long way from going toe to toe with the Premiership in that regard, the league nevertheless struck a blow yesterday, striking a broadcast deal with the self proclaimed worldwide leader in sports, ESPN.

For the official word, let’s head to Bristol:

ESPN and ESPN+ have reached an exclusive, multi-year rights agreement in the United States for Italy’s Serie A TIM, one of the world’s top soccer leagues. The agreement will bring more than 340 matches per season to ESPN+

Starting this month, ESPN+ will carry an average of nine matches live each week from August through May, while ESPN networks will televise a Serie A TIM Match of the Week — close to 40 matches per season. Most telecasts will air on ESPN and ESPN2, and the Match of the Week will also be available in Spanish on ESPN Deportes. The 20-team Serie A TIM is home to some of global football’s most recognizable and storied clubs, including Juventus FC, AC Milan, AS Roma, FC Inter Milan and more.

While no financial terms, nor the manner in which the revenue will be distributed among the 20 clubs, were disclosed, this is nevertheless huge news for American Serie A fans, particularly Roma fans. With nine live matches available per week, you have to like the odds of seeing nearly all of Roma’s matches live via one of ESPNs many platforms. Indeed, their first match against Torino will be aired on ESPNews.

While one would hope this deal was in the works for months, there’s no denying the Ronaldo factor. The biggest club in the league landing arguably the biggest player in the world was always going to draw eyes to the league, so in this respect, we can be thankful for Juventus...I can’t believe I just typed that.

ESPN + is available for $49 per year or $4.99 per month. which, if these matches are anywhere near to real time, is well worth the cost. While some of us may have qualms with ESPN in general, this is undoubtedly a step in the right direction for the league as a whole. Couple this with an improved infrastructure and Italy might, at the very least, establish themselves as the second most popular league in the world.

Baby steps for sure, but the days of diving through dodgy streams may be over, and for that I’ll rejoice.