ESPN holds the English and Spanish TV rights in the United States to the Bundesliga through the 2025/26 season. The historic six-year deal streams every game in the German top flight on ESPN+. Then, there are select games available on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2. ESPN wants to continue this deal beyond the 2025/26 campaign.
ESPN senior vice-president of programming Tim Bunnell reaffirmed the provider’s commitment to the league to media. He believes ESPN and its streaming of the league will go long beyond the two years after the current campaign.
“We are in this for the long term,” Bunnell said. “We haven’t engaged in renewal talks, but I expect to. There’s a lot to look forward to in our future.” Bunnell says the deal with ESPN got off to a slow start because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The first season of the Bundesliga deal was the 2020/21 campaign. Of course, that started in the middle of September as opposed to early August.
“We have two years to go and have a lot of development to do still,” Bunnell said. “We got a late start with Covid, and we had to pause out of the gate. Contracts begin and end but we’re looking at this as a much longer-term relationship and we’re just getting started.”
It helps that the Bundesliga is also on board for development with ESPN. Peer Naubert, chief marketing officer of Bundesliga International, wants Bundesliga clubs to build their presence in the United States. The ESPN deal can help in that regard.
“We’re 100% agreed and we would like to ask the clubs to do even more in the US and be more active and come more often so that we can build upon this and grow together in the US as much as we can.”
ESPN may battle other providers for Bundesliga rights
However, ESPN is not the only provider or channel interested in acquiring the Bundesliga rights. Apple has made it clear that it wants to take its live soccer coverage into Europe. The provider for Major League Soccer is wrapping up its first season of streaming on MLS Season Pass. That is a global deal for Major League Soccer. Its next step could be to look at the Bundesliga.
Originally, Apple took inspiration from ESPN because ESPN locked in the Bundesliga as a streaming-only deal. A few years later, Apple purchased the MLS rights to be exclusive to streaming.
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The Bundesliga has proven that a streaming-only model can be successful for global broadcast rights. For example, DAZN, a streaming service, locked in the Bundesliga rights in Canada through 2026. That deal sets up another interesting possibility where Apple may take Bundesliga streaming rights globally.
Apple and ESPN may have to pay more
Currently, ESPN is paying $30 million per season for the Bundesliga streaming and broadcast rights in the United States. With rights going up in price, that fee should rise. Plus, if Apple does take on the other international rights to assemble a global connection, it will of course be more expensive.
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The latest United States Men’s National Team squad called up players from five teams. That may be a driving point for the Bundesliga rights in the United States. It certainly helped to drive interest in Canada with Alphonso Davies playing for Bayern Munich.
PHOTO: IMAGO / Kirchner-Media
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