COMMENTARY | Here are some stats on Bayern Munich and the Bundesliga for the non-fan who accidentally stumbled upon this piece while looking for the 480th version of a 2013 NFL mock draft.
Bayern are Germany's most dominant side, so much so that they won the league back on April 6. The Bundesliga schedule concludes in the middle of May.
Pep Guardiola, who led Barcelona to over a dozen titles in his four seasons as that club's boss, will become the Bayern manager this summer.
Borussia Dortmund, in the second spot in the league table, are 20 points behind Bayern. They also just found out that they are set to lose 20-year old superstar Mario Götze this summer; to Bayern. That announcement came one day before Dortmund will host Real Madrid in the first leg of the Champions League semifinal. Two other key players for Dortmund, Mats Hummels and Robert Lewandowski, may also leave the club this coming summer.
As others before me have pointed out, Bayern raiding their rivals for talent is hardly a new practice. It's part of what has made them the world power they are today. Some might suggest that saying that the Bundesliga is a "one-club league" would be unfair to a Dortmund side that is still just three games away from potentially being crowned champions of Europe. The fact, however, is that the top-flight German league is going to be Bayern's to lose for the foreseeable future.
Despite their successes and the talent that is in the Bayern team, they are a franchise that is largely anonymous to the casual American sports fan. One reason for this is that, outside of the occasional Champions League fixture that airs on a FOX station or a German Cup game that is featured on Univision Deportes or the ESPN3/Watch ESPN service, a majority of Americans are not able to watch the German giants. GolTV, a station only available as an add-on or as part of a sports or "ultimate" television package, currently holds the American and Canadian TV rights for the Bundesliga until 2015.
It's been bad times over at GolTV since the end of the 2011-12 European season. The channel lost La Liga, which includes each Barcelona and Real Madrid match, to big-money beIN Sport last year. Some television providers saw that as a sign to drop GolTV in favor of beIN Sport. My provider only offers GolTV in standard definition. I am able to get both beIN Sport and beIN Sport en Español in HD.
ESPN is looking to pick up the TV rights for a noteworthy European league after losing the Premier League to NBC. The previously mentioned beIN Sport channels already air games during Bundesliga time slots, and there is no indication that company would replace either La Liga or Serie A with the German league. This makes a marriage between ESPN and the Bundesliga ideal on paper.
There are two problems with that mode of thinking. First is the existing contract the Bundesliga has with GolTV. The second issue is that the league is nonexistent to people in the US outside of those diehard world football fans. I'll put it like this: You think TV ratings for an Everton vs. Sunderland match are disappointing? Wait until you see how many people tune in for (more specifically do not tune into) that thrilling Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Mainz contest.
Stars make pro sports what they are. In German football, Bayern are the stars. By teaming up with only Bayern and showing all of that club's league games, ESPN could introduce the team to what would essentially be a new audience. The four-letter network would be offering an alternative to the "hipster sports fans" of America.
What, exactly, is a hipster sports fan? He's the guy who one day randomly decided to start watching soccer, but doesn't want to root for the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Barcelona, or Real Madrid because he knows people who already do. He's the guy who decided Fulham were the club for him AFTER Clint Dempsey left for Tottenham Hotspur. He's the guy who doesn't like Landon Donovan for reasons he really doesn't know.
Bayern are also perfect for the bandwagon jumpers, the fans who magically switched from the Cavs to the Heat after LeBron James took his talents to South Beach. With one exclusive US TV deal, Bayern could become the most popular AND the most hated international football club in America. Fans, old and new, would tune in each week to cheer on their beloved team, while those in the Against Modern Football camp would watch to see if the bullies get theirs. It's a win-win.
This isn't a completely original or out-of-nowhere suggestion. The YES Network has an exclusive deal with Arsenal, and shows every one of the Premier League team's games (via replay) and also weekly editions of Arsenal 360 and Arsenal World. Manchester United are on national TV in the States just about every league weekend, minus those few games when FOX tries to push FOX Soccer Plus (an issue that's going away after this season) down our throats.
Could ESPN work out a deal to get the rights to Bayern Munich matches before 2015? To quote one person in sports TV who knows more about these types of deals than do I: "Sure, why not?" If the company has to wait an extra year, though, it's no biggie. What's important is that ESPN concentrates only on Bayern. The rest of the Bundesliga can be relegated to ESPN3/Watch ESPN. That's a better setup than the league currently has in the US.
I'd be able to watch games in HD in that scenario.
Zac has been covering Tottenham Hotspur, Major League Soccer, RBNY, the USMNT and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.
- Sports & Recreation
- Bayern Munich
- Real Madrid
- Borussia Dortmund