When the Bundesliga and ESPN announced a historic deal in 2019 to stream every single game from Germany’s top-flight league, few could have predicted how revolutionary it was. The six-year deal to stream every game on ESPN+ was the first of its kind.
So, imagine what Bundesliga and ESPN executives may have been thinking last week when they heard Apple Senior Vice President of Services Eddy Cue say this during a MLS press conference:
“MLS Season Pass is a one of a kind. It’s never been done by any professional league. We have every single game. No blackouts. You can watch them around the world.”
Bundesliga’s deal with ESPN+ has every single game with no blackouts. But the difference is that Apple has the global rights to MLS. That is extraordinary. And it’s certainly something that a lot of other leagues will be keeping a close eye on. After all, will MLS Season Pass hold MLS back because of a reluctance for television networks to acquire rights if Apple has every game? Or is there a way for this deal to raise the popularity of MLS to another level in the global sport? The world will be watching the outcome.
Bundesliga and ESPN do MLS and Apple a favor
Regardless, both the Bundesliga and ESPN deserve credit for being on the cutting edge of a streaming deal they signed almost four years ago. It was a bet on the future. And, for the most part, it has paid off.
Germany’s Bundesliga is more accessible to soccer fans than ever before. There’s no need to search through your programming guide to see if you have FOX Sports 2 (like we had with the previous Bundesliga rights deal in the United States). And most certainly, ESPN+ has done a stellar job at promoting the league with exceptional coverage on match days.
Includes every MLS match, MLS Cup, Leagues Cup, select MLS NEXT Pro games + exclusive content
What the Bundesliga ESPN deal did prove was that there are numerous advantages to having a streaming-only deal. It’s simpler for consumers to find games. Plus streaming companies such as ESPN+ can offer features to allow viewers to watch four games at once, as one example.
Germany’s Bundesliga also benefits from the ability of ESPN to promote coverage of game across the entire ESPN platform. ESPN’s reach is greater than any other broadcaster in the United States. So while the Bundesliga may not be on SportsCenter every night, the league has benefitted from far greater coverage than its previous rights holder.
No doubt Apple and MLS learned from the Bundesliga-ESPN partnership, even if they don’t admit it publicly.
Photo: IMAGO / Kirchner-Media
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