Another UEFA Champions League season, another new set of viewing patterns for fans to learn and memorize.
Less than two months after Bayern Munich defeated Paris Saint-Germain in Portugal to win the 2019–20 Champions League title, the quest for the 2020–21 trophy begins. And with CBS Sports taking the baton from Turner Sports a year (and a few months) ahead of schedule, English-speaking viewers will have to pivot when making plans to watch Europe's premier club competition. Of course, there's nothing stopping English-speaking viewers from watching in Spanish, and Univision will continue to be airing games on its platforms this season as well.
With the group stage set to begin on Oct. 20–and with 10 U.S. internationals and one American manager in the mix–here's what you need to know entering another Champions League campaign:
EMPHASIS ON STREAMING
CBS, like many other networks, is focused on building out its streaming app, with many viewers and cord-cutters opting to get their entertainment in ways other than just cable TV.
As a result, there's a large emphasis on CBS's All-Access product (soon to be known as Paramount Plus), and every match—along with pre-match and post-match shows—will be available to watch wherever All-Access is available.
Once again, there are two match windows per group stage match day, with two games at 12:55 p.m. ET followed by the remaining six at 3 p.m. ET. (There will be that brief period at the end of October where daylight saving time ends in Europe and hasn't yet in the U.S., and the windows become an hour later, but 12:55 and 3 will otherwise be the standard.) CBS, which also operates CBS Sports HQ (an all-day, free streaming product on CBS's website), will begin its gameday coverage at 11 a.m. ET on HQ and All-Access, move to a pre-match show on All-Access only at noon and then transition into matches.
The matches that Univision does not have on TV will be available either via its streaming service, TUDNXtra, or FuboTV.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE ON TV
In English, CBS will be selective in its television offerings. While every match will go on All-Access, CBS adds that won't entirely be set in stone throughout, "with select marquee matches also airing on the CBS Television Network and CBS Sports Network through the 2023–24 season." It remains to be seen what qualifies as a "marquee match," whether any group stage match will be deemed "marquee" and whether specific player absences play a role in the programming (i.e., if Cristiano Ronaldo, who is now in isolation after testing positive for the coronavirus, misses Juventus's first group showdown vs. Lionel Messi's Barcelona).
In Spanish, Univision will be airing "over 75" matches on TV on a regular basis throughout the competition via Univision, UniMas, TUDN and Galavision. For the first two two-part match days, four of a day's given eight games will be on TV: two on UniMas and TUDN and two on Galavision. The remaining four will be streamed.
Univision's platforms will also feature "Futbol Central," its pregame show that previews the upcoming matches, and "Mision Europa," which will cover the highlights and wrap-up material.
RED ZONE MEETS CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
One new wrinkle CBS is offering is a whiparound show during matches that will hop from game to game to show goals from around the continent during the window in which six games are being played simultaneously. The Golazo Show will air on CBS Sports Network and All-Access and act as either a complementary screen or a sole focus depending on the viewer's preference (and attention span).
“With multiple matches being played simultaneously across Europe, we wanted to give soccer fans a fun way to experience that excitement and see every goal from every match as well as all the key moments as they happen,” CBS Sports executive VP of programming Dan Weinberg, said in a statement. “The Golazo Show will keep fans updated throughout the day’s action with all the goals and latest results, bringing them highlights as soon as they occur while also providing expert analysis—all at a single destination.”
There will also be a Golazo Pre-Match Show that kicks off at 2:30 p.m. ET to run down what happened in the day's first two games and set the stage for what's to come in the ensuing six.
Univision, meanwhile, will return with a second season of Zona Futbol, which is a whiparound show of its own. Those subscribing to participating TV providers will have access to "the best action from concurrent group stage matches as it happens. TUDN experts will guide the audience from game to game across the continent with key context and expert analysis," according to a Univision statement.