This weekend marks the start of the new Dutch Eredivisie season and there is a conspicuous absence of coverage on US TV. ESPN has held the rights to the league since the 2008-09 season. Prior to that saw the now defunct Setanta USA channel cover the Dutch league for a couple of seasons. While over the years a majority of matches were only available on ESPN’s streaming service (ESPN3), for the past 2 seasons ESPN Deportes had regular coverage early Sunday morning. Last season even saw matches shown on GOL TV as ESPN sublicensed the rights to a single match each round in return for GOL TV’s Brasileiro rights.
So will we have coverage of the Eredivisie this season? It’s hard to say but the most likely candidate would be FOX Sports. Fox International — the parent company of all that is FOX — purchased a controlling 51% of “Eredivisie Marketing and Media” (EMM) back in 2012 which has operated the Eredivisie Live television channel since its founding in 2008. The deal gives Fox International the right to broadcast the league for 12 years starting with the 2013-14 season. The first division clubs, who are in a partnership with EMM, were more than happy to approve the deal which will see each club receive about €80m per season from Fox International.
While the deal itself gives Fox International the broadcast rights in the Netherlands, their worldwide distribution and influence has already been felt in Italy, for example, where FOX Sports 2 has been launched with Eredivisie rights in that country. Fox also entered the Far East market by buying out ESPN’s 50% share of the “Star Sports” channels which were rebranded as FOX Sports Asia and will show Eredivise matches come this weekend. The Eredivisie is also coming to Brazil on FOX Sports 2 which was launched at the beginning of this year.
Connecting the dots points to Eredivisie coming to Fox in the real near future. But as of this writing, there are no listings on any of Fox’s sports properties (FOX Sports 1/2, FOX Soccer Plus, FOX Soccer 2Go). Fox certainly could use the inventory of matches. Right now, Fox’s midweek inventory is chock-full with the 2 major European Cup competitions but their weekend offerings are light and pretty much limited to Scottish competitions until the English FA Cup kicks in come January. Eredivisie can also be seen as a complementary league to the German Bundesliga which FOX starts broadcasting in the fall of 2015.
If Fox do bring Eredivisie to their fold, I don’t expect more than a couple of Ajax v PSV matchups make it to FoxSports 1 or 2. A vast majority of matches will be shown on FOX Soccer Plus and their streaming service FOX Soccer 2Go. But witnessing how closely Fox have been working with ESPN as of late (shared MLS/USSoccer, Euro/World Cup qualifiers, UEFA Champions League starting this season) we may see the Eredivisie rights make a full circle and appear right back on ESPN as well.
Edward Perovic is the publisher of soccertvblog.com – a source for schedules and US TV information for major European Leagues and International competitions.
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