Fox Sees German Soccer Deal as Test Case for Global Sports Rights Pacts

Fox is hoping to make German soccer players like Bayern's Thomas Muller and Dortmund's Marco Reus global stars.

Fox Sports has a five-year deal for Bundesliga rights across the Americas and Asia and two-year deals in key European territories.

Fox Sports is taking German soccer global.

Starting Aug. 14, with the kick-off of the 2015/2016 Bundesliga season, Fox will begin an unprecedented global rollout, airing live matches from the top German league in 80 territories, including North America.

Over the weekend, Fox unveiled details of its marketing plans as well as its hopes for the Bundesliga, taking advantage of the pre-season Supercup match up between last season's top two finishing squads, Bayern Munich and VfL Wolfsburg.

Speaking to THR, Simon Thomas, EVP of global sports and content sales at Fox International Channels, said the Bundesliga will be a test case for Fox to show it can market and distribute a sporting event worldwide.

“Handling a property like the Bundesliga globally gives us major advantages in terms of efficiencies of scale, in terms of advertising leverage, in terms of branding,” Thomas said. “We hope this could be a model for other sports rights holders who have a global property, or for ones who have the ambition to make their properties global.”

In the United States, Fox last week announced ambitious coverage plans for the Bundesliga, including carrying 58 live matches on Fox Sports 1 and 60 more on Fox Sports 2, or more than double the number previously available on U.S. TV. To sate the appetite of soccer-mad Latino fans, Fox Deportes will air fully 105 Bundesliga matches live. 

Liz Dolan, chief marketing officer of Fox International Channels, said the company was looking to capitalize on the rising wave of soccer enthusiasm in the U.S., following record figures for the Women's World Cup. A whopping 25.4 million viewers watched the final of Women's World Cup on Fox, making it the most-watched soccer telecast in U.S. TV history and easily topping the previous champ, the 18.2 million that watched U.S. vs. Portugal at the Men's World Cup in Brazil last year.

The deal for the Bundesliga, which 21st Century Fox signed back in 2013, gives Fox rights for five years across North and South America, as well as Asia, and for two years in select European territories including Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Sky Deutschland, part of the European pay-TV group partly owned by Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox, is already the Bundesliga's main partner in Germany and is in the middle of a five-year-deal with the league valued at around $2 billion.

The Bundesliga has long lagged behind the English Premiere League and Europe's Italian and Spanish leagues when it comes to international exposure. But interest in German soccer has been on the rise, thanks to last year's World Cup win by the German team and the success of top Bundesliga teams Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in the pan-European Champions League.

“We like the fact that the Bundesliga is a very young league, with a lot of young, attractive players, and the fact that it's a high-scoring league, which increases its appeal, particularly in the U.S., where we like scoring,” said Dolan.

Thomas added that unlike the Premiere League, where high ticket prices have led to half-full stadiums and more upscale, less raucous crowds, Bundesliga grounds, with their more affordable tickets, remain packed, making the matches “great TV.”

The CEO of the Bundesliga, Christian Seifert, went one further, calling the German league “the home of real football,” in contrast to the Premiere League, which is all about “who spends the most money.”

Twitter: @sroxborough

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