April 24, 2017

The Bundesliga – The bastard child of broadcasting rights

A lot has been written and said about the increase in broadcasting revenues for the Bundesliga over the years. On paper at least the league should represent an attractive package that should give broadcasters several reasons to invest into the product. We are talking about the league of the current World Champions and a top European league consistently producing exciting home-grown talent. Furthermore, the Bundesliga has consistently outscored all other top four leagues over the years. All of this doesn’t even take the rich history of the league and German football in general into account.

However, somehow broadcasters all around the world find it hard to sell this product to their viewers. Living in Norway myself I have now seen firsthand how hard it, apparently, can be. Eurosport Norway has now decided to purchase the rights to the English Championship (yes, second tier English football) and somehow they seem to be happier to broadcast those matches than Bundesliga matches. Instead of being served high-octane attacking football in one of the best leagues in the world, Eurosport has decided to show their viewers sloppy second tier football from England.

One might wonder if a broadcaster that is more committed to showing the Bundesliga could have found a way to create an interest around matches like Bayer Leverkusen vs. Borussia Dortmund, Bayern München vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach and the upcoming Borussia Dortmund vs. Schalke 04 derby. The Revierderby is one of the biggest matches on the European football calendar —  the fact that Eurosport Norway somehow seems to think that its viewers are better served by watching lower league English football speaks both volumes about the ignorance of the people making the broadcasting schedule and the lack of commitment Eurosport is showing at the moment. It is rather staggering that Blackburn Rovers vs. Wolves is shown instead of a derby that has most football fans in Europe on the edge of their seats (sure, in the 80s this might have been a tough call, but these days it should be a no brainer).

Germany – Norwegian footballers favourite stop

Traditionally, most Norwegian footballers have decided to join clubs in England. The interest in the Premier League and English football has been huge over the years, and in that regard it makes perfect sense that Discovery Norway has decided to purchase the rights to the second tier in England. There are loads of fans wanting to watch these matches and for them Eurosport’s commitment to second tier English football is certainly a boost. I get the fact that it is tough to prioritise what matches to broadcast if only a limited amount of channels and personnel are at hand. Having said that, it is still disconcerting to see what sort of matches are being dropped in favour of Championship football.

Additionally one could actually make a case for the Bundesliga being more relevant to Norwegian football fans these days than it used to be in the past. Right now there are five Norwegian players following their trade in Germany’s highest tier (compared to four in England) and eight Norwegians on Bundesliga 2 squads (compared to three in the Championship). Out of the players currently playing in England, two of them actually have a past in the Bundesliga (Håvard Nordtveit and Joshua King). Right now Norway’s captain, Per Ciljan Skjellbred, and his BSC teammate, Rune Jarstein, are central figures in Hertha’s rise in the table.  however, somehow Eurosport seems utterly incapable to make Hertha’s matches a tasty treat for Norwegian football fans. Why?

Football fans around the world face similar or even worse situations when it comes to the TV schedules available. Even though the Bundesliga is increasing in its popularity and there are fans from all over the world travelling to Germany to experience what it is like to be in a German stadium, many broadcasters still feel like the rights to the Bundesliga are the bastard child they never wanted, but somehow got stuck with. It’s sad to see that Eurosport Norway has joined their ranks.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 30-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball and on the @AufstiegPod.

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