ProSiebenSat.1 extends Virtual Bundesliga deal, acquires all of eSports.com

German media company ProSiebenSat.1 has agreed a one-season extension to its rights to the Virtual Bundesliga (VBL), the esports competition operated by the German Football League (DFL), while stating its aim to further efforts in the sector by securing complete control of the eSports GSA entity.

ProSiebenSat.1 first secured rights to the VBL in December 2018, and has agreed to extend this commitment into the 2019-20 VBL Club Championship season which commences on November 4.

Through the deal between the DFL and 7Sports, the umbrella brand for ProSiebenSat.1’s sports business, fans will be able to follow the 2019-20 VBL Club Championship live on free-to-air television channel ProSieben Maxx, www.eSports.com and virtual.bundesliga.com.

The competition encompassing 22 clubs across the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 was first held in 2018-19. For the first time, this season’s Championship will feature a fixed schedule for matchdays and times. Until the end of the year, the matches will be played on Mondays and Thursdays. After the winter-break, the VBL Club Championship will take place on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

In 2012, the DFL became the first professional football league to have its own esports competition when it launched the VBL in partnership with EA Sports. The VBL is still the only esports competition of a professional football league to be directly integrated into EA Sports’ Fifa game series.

Meanwhile, 7Sports has increased its stake in eSports GSA from 50 to 100 per cent. The deal means the brand and domain of the news portal www.eSports.com will be transferred to 7Sports.

The acquisition takes effect following the insolvency of 7Sports’ former joint venture partner eSports.com AG.

So far, 7Sports has focused on the German-speaking markets of Germany, Austria and Switzerland. However, through the complete takeover of eSports.com, the 7Sports said it will build its international activities.

Stefan Zant, managing director of 7Sports, will head the business of eSports GSA.

ProSiebenSat.1 said esports-related revenue is expected to reach €130m ($143.3m) in Germany by 2020, with the fanbase to hit 10 million in 2021. 7Sports said it will look to organise its own esports tournaments in the future, together with external partners, and develop esports leagues.

Zant remarked: “We have already proven with the NFL that we can get sports out of a niche in Germany and make them popular. This is exactly the path we are now taking with esports.

“The first step is to explain the new sports trend to the public. We do this by means of editorial content on our wide-reaching TV programmes. We offer live broadcasts, show re-runs of key scenes and classify moves, tactics and strategies via our experts – just as the audience knows from major sports.

“The fact that we now own 100 per cent of eSports.com is a strong starting point for further growth in German-speaking and international markets.”