Bundesliga heads to ESPN+ in long-term US rights deal

Bundesliga heads to ESPN+ in long-term US rights deal
German soccer’s Bundesliga has confirmed a long-term media rights partnership in the US with Disney-owned sports media giant ESPN.

Starting from the 2020/21 campaign, the new agreement will see the ESPN+ streaming subscription platform carry exclusive live and on-demand replay coverage of more than 300 games each season from German soccer’s top flight.

The financial terms and length of the agreement were not officially disclosed, but SportsPro understands that it is a six-year deal valued around four times higher than the Bundesliga’s expiring US broadcast contract with pay-TV network Fox Sports.

The improved deal with ESPN should help drive a significant increase on the reported annual €220 million (US$240 million) the Bundesliga currently receives for its overseas media rights.

The terms of the deal also call for select Bundesliga matches to feature on ESPN’s linear television networks, while highlights will also be made available across ESPN’s programmes, app and website.

The agreement, which was first reported in August by the New York Post, also includes coverage of the season-opening DFL Supercup, as well as rights to the second-tier 2. Bundesliga and a vast arsenal of on-demand surround programming such as highlights and magazine programming.

The deal brings to an end the Bundesliga’s broadcast partnership with Fox, which has been the US home of the German soccer league since the 2015/16 campaign. SportsPro understands that Fox held conversations with the Bundesliga about prolonging the agreement, but that its interest did not match that of ESPN.

“It was clear from the start that ESPN and ESPN+ shared our ambitious vision,” said Bundesliga International Chief Executive Robert Klein. “As innovators in the sports industry, we’re both driven to deliver highly engaging content for fans.

“They will help us build on the strong connections the Bundesliga has with the US having welcomed more American players than any other European league. Germany will continue to be an important source of talent for future US national teams and with ESPN we’re incredibly excited to take fans on their journey in the lead up to their home World Cup in 2026.”

The Bundesliga is the latest soccer addition to the ESPN+ over-the-top (OTT) service, with the sport a pillar of the platform alongside college sports and MMA. German soccer’s top flight joins a portfolio which already includes Italy’s Serie A, Dutch soccer’s Eredivisie, England’s FA Cup knockout competition and out-of-market Major League Soccer (MLS) games.

Russell Wolf, executive vice president and general manager of ESPN+, said: “With a strong connection to the American soccer community, a growing audience in the US and some of the most well-known clubs and players in the world, the addition of the Bundesliga further cements ESPN+ as a must-have for any soccer fan.”

It was announced in February that ESPN+ had accumulated 2 million subscribers, while Disney told investors in April that the platform could attract between eight million and 12 million subscribers by the end of the 2024 financial year.

Burke Magnus, Executive Vice President of Programming at ESPN, added: “We’re thrilled to reach this kind of multi-year agreement to bring one of the world’s most passion-filled and exciting soccer leagues to the most innovative sport service in the US. Like ESPN, the Bundesliga has embraced technology, putting the fan at the heart of all they do by consistently delivering world-class content.”

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