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Bundesliga Viewing Challenges

Quick Note: When was the last time you started reading an article about the German Soccer League (Bundesliga)?

If you love the Bundesliga but don’t want to pay any more for cable or streaming, you have a decision to make or not make it (which is a decision).

I want to provide a brief history of the televised coverage of the Bundesliga over the last several years. Most soccer fans know that FS1/FS2 broadcasted many of the Bundesliga games recently. Because they were synonymous with the Bundesliga, any past commitment that I made with DirecTV ensured my selected package included FS1/FS2. Moving on to earlier this year, I switched from DirecTV to YouTube TV. Again, before switching, I validated that this new streaming service still broadcasts many of the Bundesliga games on those same networks.

The Bundesliga began the 2019-20 campaign on August 16, 2019. On March 13, 2020, the Bundesliga was suspended due to the Coronavirus pandemic. It was later resumed on May 16 of the same year and concluded on June 27, 2020.

The new season began in September and I have the option on YouTube TV to record all Bundesliga games, individual matches, or select teams. I choose to just record all games involving my favorite teams Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. That was my plan but after several weeks, none of these teams had any recently recorded games to watch. My first thought was the recording of these games was incorrectly configured so I reviewed my YouTube TV library which confirmed to me that the settings were correct. I proceeded to do some online research to determine the issue.

Unbeknownst to me, Fox Sports no longer had the rights to broadcast these games. They had been broadcasting this league for the last handful of years so I was surprised to read this news. ESPN Plus came into the picture and formed a partnership with the Bundesliga. According to the agreement, ESPN Plus would broadcast over 300 matches per season from the Bundesliga, both in English and Spanish, and cost $5.99 per month with a stipulation you can cancel at any time.

The CEO of Bundesliga International, Robert Klein was quoted saying, "It was clear from the start that ESPN and ESPN+ shared our ambitious vision. As innovators in the sports industry, we're both driven to deliver highly engaging content for fans." He continued: "They will help us build on the strong connections the Bundesliga has with the U.S. has welcomed more American players than any other European league. He continued, “Germany will continue to be an important source of talent for future U.S. national teams and with ESPN we're incredibly excited to take fans on their journey in the lead up to their home World Cup in 2026."

Look, I don’t have a problem with the Bundesliga teaming up ESPN Plus for the next handful of years, I get it, ESPN has a large footprint, especially in the States and abroad so this German league decided to make a switch. Both the Bundesliga and ESPN have strong brands and will partner together. I believe the Bundesliga realizes international football (soccer) is becoming more popular in the USA and considering the World Cup in 2016 will play primarily in the USA (and fewer games in Canada and Mexico) this move may ultimately mean it was an effective business decision at just the right time.

However, I was completely unaware of the switch. I must confess that I may spend an hour or so each day reading the online news, including sports, politics, business, and health. Not once did I see any news article saying the Bundesliga was now switching from FS1 to ESPN Plus. That’s the frustrating part, not knowing and having an unsuccessful recording experience that led me to this new programming change.

Did other soccer enthusiasts have the same experience which may require a shift in viewing plans? Also, my current streaming service of YouTube TV did not notify me of this change. So my perception is that I was adversely hit by both corporate interests. I’m still paying the same for YouTube TV as earlier this year, but now, based on my viewing habits, I’m getting less than what I signed up for (within such a short period of time).

In today’s competing viewing world, this will continue to happen. There will be future details made within individual networks that could change the landscape of YouTube TV – the same principle will apply to Netflix, Amazon TV, DirecTV, and others. The programming you sign up for today may change in the course of 6 to 12 months. If anything, this experience has reinforced the need to be more astute and aware of any changes made to my streaming provider so if necessary, I can always look for alternatives --- especially if these changes are not effectively communicated to the streaming, cable, or satellite customer.


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