Bundesliga ready to go OTT internationally if rights bids disappoint

Germany’s Bundesliga is preparing itself to launch an over-the-top subscription service in certain international markets at the start of the 2020-21 season.

The ‘Bundesliga Pass’ service would be able to stream all matches from Germany’s top-tier league in markets where the league cannot derive acceptable rights bids from broadcasters, or also in markets where the league is looking to develop the property.

A provisional price point of $7.99 per month has been set for the direct-to-consumer service, but SportBusiness understands that the exact pricing would be dependent on the market in question.

A video trailer showcasing Bundesliga Pass was shown at yesterday’s (Wednesday’s) German Football League (DFL) general assembly meeting. Christian Seifert, the DFL chief executive, also referenced the proposed offering in his speech, saying that the OTT solution would be used “in certain markets if required.”

The league has stopped short of saying that it will be launching the service but has stressed that it would be ready next season if needs be. A version of the product is running internally for testing purposes. However, any launch of a direct-to-consumer platform in Germany was definitively ruled out by Seifert.

News of the preparations that have been going on behind the scenes to develop the OTT platform comes as contracts with international broadcasters (outside of Europe and China) expire at the end of the 2019-20 season.

The availability of the OTT platform provides Bundesliga International, the league’s rights selling arm, with more leverage in rights negotiations.

In addition to using Bundesliga Pass as a back-up solution when rights bids are unsatisfactory, the league would also consider strategically taking rights off the table and then using the OTT service to develop a market.

In June, the DFL made an initial move in the live streaming space, teaming up with Uefa to become a partner of the continental federation’s new OTT service. The Uefa.tv offering shows highlights from the Bundesliga.

The $7.99 monthly fee is being used as a guide at present, given that the pricing would be different if Bundesliga Pass was wholesaled through a partnership with a broadcaster, or if it was bundled into a wider package. Live rights to the second-tier 2. Bundesliga could also be showcased on the new platform should there be the necessary interest.

An early-bird price of $5.99 per month was also mentioned in the video shown at the DFL’s general assembly meeting, as was ‘Bundesliga 90+’, a service equivalent to Sky Deutschland’s ‘Konferenz’ offering in Germany that provides simultaneous and curated live coverage of all games.

Bundesliga Pass has been devised with the intention to stream all games, although it is understood that the league is also open to the idea of selling exclusive rights to certain games to a broadcaster (and then showcasing the others on the direct-to-consumer platform).

The service would also be able to show around 8,000 hours of archive content.

Bundesliga International has prioritised a new broadcast rights agreement in USA, where Fox Sports holds the rights until the end of this season, and is also prioritising negotiations in Latin America and Asia (except in China, where the rights are tied up until 2023).

At the end of July, it was reported that the Bundesliga had agreed a US rights deal with pay-television broadcaster ESPN for its ESPN+ streaming service. At the time SportBusiness Media understood that no deal had been signed. The Bundesliga has not commented on or confirmed a deal in the US, but it is thought that an announcement might be forthcoming before the end of August.