With every deal that the Bundesliga has signed in the United States, the German league has become more popular. From GolTV to FOX Sports to, beginning in the summer of 2020, ESPN, the Bundesliga keeps on working diligently to try to crack the American market.
But the Bundesliga’s deal with ESPN is something else. It’s a pre-emptive strike and gutsy move that bets the future on streaming. Yes, some games will be on television, but this is a big leap of faith at a time when being on television is still a big deal.
We go into more details about what the deal means for soccer fans in the United States, as well as the finer details for hardcore fans of Bundesliga clubs.
Question: What has been announced?
Answer: ESPN+ has acquired the exclusive live and on-demand replay coverage of 306 matches per season from the Bundesliga, in both English and Spanish languages. The broadcasts on ESPN+ will begin in August 2020.
Q: How many games will be on TV?
A: ESPN is contracted to air four games a season on television. Those four games won’t be available via ESPN+. Of the four to be shown on television, they could air on anything from ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNEWS to, even, ABC. We’ll have to wait and see what ESPN decides.
Q: What about the Spanish-language rights to the league in the United States?
A: ESPN+ has the Spanish-language rights beginning in August 2020. When the four games a season air on English-language ESPN, it’s expected that those four games will air in Spanish-language on ESPN Deportes.
Q: How will the deal impact the way I watch the Bundesliga?
A: If you’ve been accustomed to watching the Bundesliga on television, your world will be turned upside down from August 2020 when more than 300 games per season will only be available via the ESPN+ streaming service.
Beginning August 2020, the Bundesliga games that used to stream on FOX Soccer Match Pass will no longer be available via that service. ESPN+ will be your destination for German soccer.
Q: When will the first Bundesliga game be aired on ESPN?
A: The new contract will begin with the German Super Cup in early August, which will feature the winner of the 2019/20 Bundesliga season against the winner of the 2019/20 DFB Pokal. The actual first Bundesliga game under the ESPN+ contract will kick off later in August.
Q: How many Bundesliga games will air on the ESPN TV channels?
A: Four per season, which will likely feature Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.
Dortmund’s Managing Director Carsten Cramer told Forbes, “We are happy, especially as there are some clauses in the contract that will make it likely that Borussia Dortmund will be shown a couple of times on one of the main channels.”
Q: How much is ESPN+?
A: ESPN+ is $4.99/month.
Q: How much did ESPN pay for the rights to broadcast the Bundesliga in the United States?
A: According to sources, ESPN paid $30 million a season for six years to win the rights to broadcast the Bundesliga in the United States. That’s approximately four times as much as the league’s previous arrangement in the US with FOX Sports.
Q: How long does ESPN have the rights for?
A: The six-year agreement that starts with the 2020-21 season will end at the close of the 2025-26 season.
Q: Will ESPN+ also broadcast the 2.Bundesliga and related competitions?
A: Yes, we understand that ESPN+ will stream select games from the 2.Bundesliga as well as German Super Cup and relegation-promotion playoffs.
Q: What do the changes signify for FOX Sports?
A: When the final Bundesliga game of the 2019/20 season ends, the reality is that FOX Sports will be completely out of the European club soccer business. In the past two years, FOX Sports has lost the rights to the Champions League, Europa League, FA Cup, Scottish Premiership and now the Bundesliga.
The only club soccer leagues FOX Sports will have the rights to are Major League Soccer and Liga MX. For hardcore soccer fans who prefer watching club soccer from overseas, FOX Sports will be irrelevant.
Q: What does ESPN offer that FOX Sports didn’t?
Answer: ESPN, as a whole, understands how to market soccer more effectively than FOX Sports.
According to ESPN+ General Manager Russell Wolff, “We’ll make Bundesliga bigger than it’s ever been before in the United States.”
Q: Do you know if ESPN+ will offer a weekly highlights program for the Bundesliga like they currently do for Serie A?
Answer: We believe ESPN+ will, yes.
Q: What happens to Fox Soccer Plus?
Answer: If FOX Soccer Plus was almost irrelevant before, it’ll certainly become more irrelevant beginning in the summer of 2020 when the Bundesliga will no longer be available on it.
FOX Soccer Plus has been a misnomer for years. With the exit of the Bundesliga, perhaps now is finally the time for FOX Sports to consider renaming the network to something less descriptive or what it could possibly become — FOX Rugby Channel.
Q: What about Bundesliga rights in Canada?
A: The Canadian deal for the Bundesliga will be negotiated separately.
Q: What other soccer rights does ESPN+ have?
A: Serie A, UEFA Nations League, Championship, League One, League Two, FA Cup, League Cup, Copa America, US Open Cup, International Champions Cup, Coppa Italia, Supercoppa Italiana, Eredivisie, Danish Superliga, Chinese Super League, Indian Super League, Australian A-League, Sweden’s Allsvenskan, MLS out-of-market games and USL.