Germany’s Bundesliga Soccer to Resume on May 16

Germany’s Bundesliga professional soccer league is set to become one of the first sports organizations in the world to resume play on May 16. All remaining nine weekend games of the season will be played in empty stadiums for televised and streaming video audiences. The league has been suspended since March 13.

The German Football Association says the matches would run under strict health protocols, including requiring players have regular COVID-19 tests.

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Comcast’s Sky Deutschland will broadcast all games live in Germany and Austria. Pay-TV operator BT Sports has Bundesliga rights in the U.K. is reportedly considering broadcasting the games for free (with ads).

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‘Goaaal!’ Amazon Gets Record U.K. Prime Membership Sign-Ups Streaming Premier League Soccer

Amazon says its foray into live-streaming Premier League soccer matches in the United Kingdom has resulted in record sign-ups with the e-commerce behemoth.

Prime Video streamed 10 matches between Dec. 4-6 with an army of cameras, operators, sound engineers and on-screen talent to analyze the action.

Amazon said it set a U.K. record for Prime membership sign-ups on Dec. 4, which was then broken again on Dec. 6. Amazon does not disclose Prime membership numbers. Media reports suggest Amazon has 15 million members in the U.K. since launching in 2007.

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“We’re delighted that millions of football fans enjoyed watching Amazon’s first ever round of Premier League matches on Prime Video,” Alex Green, managing director of Prime Video Sport Europe, said in a statement.

Green said the matches — similar to IMDb TV and Prime Video content — featured in-program special features such as live stats, ‘X-Ray’ highlights, in addition to commentary-free option.

Amazon’s next Premier League action is a nine-game slate on Dec. 26.

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Rakuten TV Launches FC Barcelona Soccer Series

To soccer fans worldwide, Spain’s FC Barcelona (“Barça”) is one of the top professional clubs in the world led by Argentine’s Lionel Messi.

Rakuten TV Nov. 29 launched “Matchday: Inside FC Barcelona,” a free eight-episode reality-based program that follows the club and its players through the 2018-19 season.

Narrated by John Malkovich, the series claims to offer a “no-holds-barred” view of the club and players during a season that saw the club finish atop Spain’s La Liga as well feature prominently in the ongoing UEFA Champions League competition.

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Rakuten is a primary commercial sponsor of FC Barcelona. The series is available for free across the 42 European countries, including Japan.

Rakuten TV is a European-based VOD offering transactional access to new release movies and TV shows. It also includes an AVOD section, Rakuten TV Free, in a blend of thematic channels embracing Hollywood classics, local, exclusive and themed content.

Rakuten, headquartered in Japan, offers ecommerce in the United States. In addition to FC Barcelona, the company has partnerships with the NBA, the Golden State Warriors, Davis Cup and Spartan Race.

Disney’s ESPN+ Streaming Service Soon Home to German Bundesliga Soccer

Disney-owned sports subscription streaming video service, ESPN+, will become in 2020 the U.S. home for the Bundesliga, Germany’s top professional soccer league.

Launched last year, ESPN+ costs $5 monthly, or $50 annually, featuring sports and related content not available on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, ESPN Classic and ESPN News.

“With a strong connection to the American soccer community, a growing audience in the U.S. and some of the most well-known clubs and players in the world, the addition of the Bundesliga further cements ESPN+ as a must-have for any soccer fan,” Russell Wolf, EVP and GM, ESPN+, said in a statement.

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The Bundesliga joins an extensive lineup of soccer on ESPN+ that features over 2,000 top football matches per year from around the world, including exclusive coverage in the US of Italy’s Serie A, the UEFA Nations League, England’s FA Cup and EFL, MLS, the Dutch Eredivisie and more.

Robert Klein, CEO of Bundesliga International, said the deal underscores that Germany continues to be an important source of talent for U.S. national soccer teams.

“With ESPN+, we’re excited to take fans on their journey in the lead up to their home World Cup in 2026,” Klein said.

The service is also streaming 22 matches of the West African Football Union (WAFU) Cup of Nations, which began Sept. 28  from the Stade Lat Dior in Thies, Senegal.

 

Spain’s Top Soccer League Fined for Spying on Fans via Mobile App

Spain’s top professional soccer league, “La Liga” has been fined €250,000 ($280,000) for using its mobile app to determine whether users were watching pirated games.

The country’s data protection agency said the free Android app, which reportedly has been downloaded nearly 10 million times, enabled fans to keep track of games, scores, player stats and schedules, among other data.

The technology could also track a user’s surroundings – such as a restaurant or sports bar – and determine whether matches were being shown illegally – information, the agency said, La Liga did not disclose to users.

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La Liga, along with English Premier League, Germany’s Bundesliga, Italy’s Serie A and France’s Ligue 1, ranks among the most lucrative in the world. Yet, it contends annual revenue loses upwards of €150 million from pirated games.

“This translates into direct damage for clubs, operators and fans, among others,” La Liga said in a statement denying the allegations. The league  claims the regulatory agency is unfamiliar with the app’s technology.

“All this technology was implemented to achieve a legitimate goal: fight against piracy,” the league said.

La Liga, which said the app followed existing regulations, added it would shutter the alleged spying functions at the season’s end on June 30.

Rakuten Bows Sports-Themed SVOD Service

Rakuten June 11 announced the launch of Rakuten Sports, a new live and video-on-demand platform.

The service’s content portfolio, currently centered on soccer, also features original series, “Iniesta TV,” which follows international soccer star Andrés Iniesta who plays for Japanese professional soccer team, Vissel Kobe – which is sponsored by Rakuten.

Rakuten has partnered with Lagardère Sports, the international media rights distributor of Japan’s J. League, to distribute 2019 season in more than 140 countries worldwide, excluding Japan.

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The new service is designed to appeal to soccer fans in Vietnam, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and other countries in Southeast Asia, where the popularity of the sport is on the rise and the J. League’s fan base is mushrooming.

“Rakuten has worked alongside [its] partners to bring a diverse lineup of sports initiatives to life,” Makoto Arima, EVP, chief revenue officer and president of Rakuten’s media & sports company, said in a statement. “Rakuten Sports represents an important part of this mission. We hope to contribute to the continued growth of the J. League by sharing what the league has to offer with soccer fans around the world.”

In addition to soccer, Rakuten Sports plans to add basketball, table tennis and other sports in the future. Going forward, the platform also plans to introduce new user engagement capabilities that would enable users to interact with the content while communicating with other fans via social media.

The SVOD service’s parent, e-commerce giant Rakuten, also operates Barcelona-based Rakuten TV, which offers digital retail, rental of Hollywood movies, in addition to subscription streaming video throughout Europe.

Pluto TV Gets Major League Soccer

Pluto TV May 13 announced the launch of the Major Leaguer Soccer (MLS) channel on the ad-supported streaming video platform.

San Francisco-based Pluto said the move underscored what it claims is the sport of soccer’s strong appeal with cord-cutters and millennial consumers.

“Establishing our first league offering with a renowned and respected organization like the MLS is the perfect match,” Amy Kuessner, SVP of content partnerships for Pluto TV, said in a statement. “Expanding Pluto TV’s sports offerings has long been a goal of the platform.”

Highlights of the available programming include classic matches, such as MLS Cup 2018 and Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s debut for the LA Galaxy, a 4-3 win over crosstown rivals LAFC.

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Original features on offer will include “The Movement,” which explores the intersection of soccer and culture, and “The Birth of a Rivalry,” MLS’s flagship series about the passion of new rivalries.

Additional programming includes “Matchday Central,” featuring expert analysis from MLS personalities; “Extratimedriven by Continental,” a twice-weekly talk show; “MLS Review,” a weekly show; and highlights including “Top 10 Plays” and “All Goals,” amongst others.

“Major League Soccer’s agreement with Pluto TV offers fans a new way to experience the game and interact with our high-quality content,” said Chris Schlosser, SVP of media at MLS. “Major League Soccer is always evaluating new opportunities to provide our young, diverse and tech savvy fan base increased access to our matches, athletes and clubs.”

MLS’ new channel will join Pluto TV’s 100+ live, linear, curated channels and thousands of movies on demand from nearly 150 major studios, networks, publishers and digital first outfits.

Viewers and fans can access Pluto TV in the living room by utilizing Amazon’s Fire TV, Roku, Android TV, Chromecast, on Smart TVs by Vizio, Hisense, and Sony, or on gaming consoles such as PS4. It is also available on-the-go via apps for iOS, Android, and Amazon, at-the-fingertips on PC and Mac, or on the web at www.Pluto.TV.

Sports Streamer DAZN Bows Service in Spain

DAZN, the London-based sports streaming platform that signed Mexican boxing champion Canelo Álvarez to a 11-fight, $365 million fight deal, has launched service in Spain.

The service, which is available in Japan, Brazil, Italy, Canada, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the U.S.,is offering access in Spain (€4.99 monthly) featuring sports such as Moto GP, 7 Days Euro Cup, FIBA Basketball World Cup, and soccer leagues/tournaments such as Premier League, J. League, FA Cup, Carabao Cup, Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana.

Notably, the aforementioned sports are not available to DAZN subscribers in the U.S., where DAZN remains a fight-centric service priced at $9.99 month.

 

Facebook Reiterates No ‘Premier League’ Soccer License Bid

Facebook reportedly confirmed it will not seek to license Britain’s Premier League soccer for the social media’s Watch over-the-top video platform.

Speaking recently at the Broadcasting Press Guild Lunch in London, Patrick Walker, director of media partnerships, EMEA at Facebook, said a Premier League license bid was “not on the cards” at the moment.

“We’re not going out with the intention of acquiring lots of football rights specifically,” said Walker. “It’s more testing different sorts of ideas and seeing how they work and collaborating with rightsholders.”

Specifically, Walker said Facebook’s strategy revolves around enhances and enticing online usage and consumption for sports leagues and then working with them or a third-party on distribution.

“Facebook, in a way is like the world’s biggest sports stadium,” he said. “There’s around half a billion people who follow a football club somewhere in the world on Facebook.”

Facebook, along with Google, Amazon and Netflix, had been rumored as parties possible seeking to secure exclusive access to the world’s most-popular professional soccer league.

While Netflix steadfastly refuses to consider live sports, Facebook, YouTube and Prime Video have embraced sports, including Major League Baseball, the National Football League and Champions League soccer.

Amazon, which streams NFL Thursday Night Football, reportedly is also considering licensing Fox Sports Regional Networks.

 

 

 

 

Facebook, Disney/ESPN+ Up Soccer Streaming

Soccer may be the world’s most-popular sport that has yet to generate mainstream appeal in the United States. But that isn’t stopping major domestic over-the-top video platforms from inking distribution deals with international professional leagues.

Disney’s recently launched OTT service ESPN+ signed a multi-year media agreement for three more top-division soccer leagues – Australia’s Hyundai A-League and Westfield W-League, the Chinese Super League and the Dutch Eredivisie.

In all, more than 300 matches per season from the leagues will be streamed live exclusively in the United States on ESPN+.

“This agreement further boosts the position of ESPN+ as the leading new platform for live soccer matches in the U.S.,” Burke Magnus, EVP of programming and scheduling at ESPN, said in a statement. “These leagues join a lineup of hundreds of top-division live matches from Europe and North America, along with a strong lineup of original and studio soccer programming.”

Last week, ESPN+ announced a new multi-year agreement with Serie A TIM that includes more than 340 Italian soccer matches per year. The streaming service is also home to MLS Live – a collection of more than 250 Major League Soccer out-of-market matches, as well as local market media home for the Chicago Fire.

ESPN+ will carry more than 100 live matches from the UEFA Nations League (UNL), a new tournament among the 55-member nations from the Union of European Football Associations played on FIFA international match days beginning in September. In addition, ESPN+ subscribers have access to hundreds of English Football League (EFL), the United Soccer League (USL) matches.

The service also streams “ESPN FC”, ESPN’s daily global soccer news, information and analysis program.

Separately, Facebook signed a deal with Spain’s La Liga soccer league to stream matches in Asia. The €90 million agreement will live-stream 380 matches in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Maldivas, Nepal, Butan and Sri Lanka.

This summer Amazon Prime Video announced it would live-stream 20 Premier League soccer matches beginning in 2019.