ESPN lands Bundesliga rights starting in 2020
The Bundesliga is moving to ESPN from Fox as part of a six-year deal that runs through 2026.
Neither ESPN nor the German soccer league would comment on deal terms but sources said ESPN has committed to pay north of $30 million per year for the rights, which start in August 2020.
“We got an increase, and we are happy with it,” said Arne Rees, executive vice president of strategy for the Americas at Bundesliga International. “The economics took a good upturn. It’s the kind of growth that we’re hoping for from the U.S. market and that we achieved.”
The deal has a similar structure to one ESPN signed with IMG last August for a package of rights that included Serie A and England’s popular FA Cup tournament. ESPN is paying $55 million per year for that three-year deal through 2020-21, sources said.
Deal terms have most of Serie A’s live matches appearing on the ESPN+ streaming platform and some on linear TV.
The Bundesliga deal is structured the same way with more than 300 matches per season streamed to ESPN+.
“Some select matches will appear on ESPN linear television,” said Russell Wolff, executive vice president and general manager of ESPN+.
The agreement includes streaming rights for the DFL-Supercup, relegation playoff matches and Bundesliga 2 (second division) matches.
Bundesliga executives view this deal as a way to become more entrenched in the U.S. market. The league opened a New York office last fall and is focused more on international growth, Rees said.
Over the previous five seasons, FS1 and FS2 carried Bundesliga matches.
“This deal brings a mixture of financial upside with ESPN’s huge megaphone,” Rees said. “We’re really looking forward to working with them and using their incredible platforms to grow our brand, create more fans and bring our story to a larger audience.”
For ESPN, the deal helps solidify ESPN+ as a place for soccer fans. It streams more than 2,000 soccer matches per year from Serie A, UEFA Nations League, MLS and the FA Cup.
“Any European football on ESPN+ further solidifies this product as a must-have home for soccer fans here in America,” Wolff said. “At $4.99 per month, it’s the cost of one latte per month to get all of that soccer.”
Importantly for ESPN, the deal runs through two World Cup qualifying cycles. Several players who will compete for U.S. men’s national soccer team roster spots play in the Bundesliga, including Weston McKennie (FC Schalke 04), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Zack Steffen and Alfredo Morris (Fortuna Düsseldorf), Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen) and John Brooks (VfL Wolfsburg).
ESPN shares rights to USMNT qualifying matches with Fox.