Bundesliga Rights Picture Becomes Scrambled

21 August 2020 | Broadcasting & New Media
Bundesliga Rights Picture Becomes Scrambled
When a new set of Bundesliga rights were announced back in June, the news was gratefully received within Germany and although there was a small decrease in overall value, the combined deals signified a market that has held relatively firm.

A win for all parties, be that the Deutsche Football League (DFL), the new rights holders or the clubs involved and with initial fears of collective rights values dropping off a cliff because of the coronavirus pandemic, they thankfully failed to come to fruition.

While although the Bundesliga had almost unrivalled focus back in May, it had to undertake a small period of hibernation and it is that cessation in activity, which is now causing headaches further down the line.

A headache involving one of the previous owners of Bundesliga rights and their belief that a global pandemic is enough to suspend payment. An opinion not shared by those within the headquarters of the DFL.

Playing the role of unhappy media giant is that of Discovery Communications and via their pan-European and well established Eurosport channel, they secured 45 Bundesliga fixtures in the previous rights cycle.

This deal was secured for the start of the 2017/18 season and was set to run through to the end of this upcoming campaign. However, it was soon discovered that there was little value for money in these secondary rights and they were soon sub-licensed.

From here the streaming platform DAZN took the slack and although they have perhaps struggled to gain a foothold across Europe, rights such as these would undoubtedly aid their quest to get a bigger piece of the media pie.

While because Discovery passed those rights on, it is no surprise that they were not part of the latest round of rights auctioning and although the DFL would have prepared for that, they would have not been ready at the attempt to see a force majeure clause invoked.

An attempt that ultimately failed and to make matters worse, the DFL have reminded Discovery of the fact that they are still in possession of 45 more Bundesliga fixtures for this season and now they need to uphold their end of the bargain.

News that also does not sit well within the confines of the DAZN boardroom, as a question remains to their own deal that they attempted to strike for this season and now a storm is brewing, as to actually who owns the ability to cover these German top flight fixtures.

With Discovery doing their best to break all ties with Bundesliga coverage, further plans were foiled after arbitration talks went against them and with the DFL claiming that a recent ruling now acts as a ‘final judgement’ it looks as if the show may have to begrudgingly go on at Eurosport.

Discovery have already incurred heavy loss after sub-licensing their contract in the past and with relationships with both the DFL and DAZN approaching sub-zero temperatures, they must now decide what to do with an unloved bundle of fixtures.

Ultimately, a decision will need to be made soon and with the new season set to start in just under a month, the last thing the DFL need is for contracts not to be upheld and the increased media focus of the past couple of months to then be diminished.

Of course, DAZN will be celebrating at the fact that their foothold within Germany will increase from the 2021/22 season onwards and with only Sky acting as competition, it may give the platform the shot in the arm it has been waiting for.

However, any short-term deals they thought they may have signed – as they previously announced the aimed to work independently from any Discovery partnership, have seemingly been foiled and ultimately, they could face something of a relative blackout for 2020/21.

Written by Dan Tracey

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