Soccer is a growing sport in the United States; there’s access to many clubs and leagues around the world. However, it’s that access that can cause anger and frustration for specific fans.
When DFL CEO Christian Seifert stated his displeasure with FOX Sports, it brought up the question, is Ligue 1 and supporters of French clubs happy with their television deal in the United States?
Now official: Bundesliga will start 6-year deal in USA English with ESPN/ESPN+ in August 2020. Fox Sports loses another soccer property.
— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) September 30, 2019
What the Premier League and NBC Do Right
Let’s start with what one league is doing right to grow its presence in the US. Whatever you think of the Premier League, there’s no denying the tremendous job they’ve done marketing their game in the US. First, they have a television deal with NBC Sports, who’ve treated them as their number one sport, meaning they go above and beyond in their coverage of the English league.
For example, having one channel in NBC Sports Network, it allows for hassle-free access to matches. NBCSN will show a significant amount of matches each Saturday and Sunday, with the marquee matchup likely being aired nationwide on NBC—a broadcast channel that anyone can get even without a cable or satellite package. They do offer a streaming service called NBC Gold, but often it’s for less than appealing matches.
Along with airing the games, having a stable pre and post-game show is vital. NBCSN does an excellent job setting up the day with Premier League Mornings. There’s no quick transition into and out of matches like you see in beIN Sports. The show sets the fans up, as pundits like Robbie Earle, Kyle Martino, and Robbie Mustoe discuss in detail previewing and recapping matches throughout the league that day.
NBC has Premier League until 2022 – $1bn, 6 year deal https://t.co/mh5Cmsn3x7
— Rob Harris (@RobHarris) February 14, 2018
Next, NBC takes their show on the road as they put together a fanfest. Over the past few seasons, the show has aired live in cities like New York, Washington D.C., Boston, and Austin. Having a yearly fan engaging event, are little things show appreciation to the viewers.
The Frustration in Watching Other Leagues
When it comes to beIN Sports, Ligue 1 is a second class citizen; La Liga reigns supreme and holds the first-class status. For instance, if FC Barcelona or Real Madrid C.F. are playing at the same time as Paris Saint-Germain, the primary channel will go to one of the Spanish giants. Meanwhile, PSG gets relegated to one of the channels where you need to use the beIN Sports app, which can be a hassle in itself.
The CEO of French club soccer's governing body is fed up with Ligue 1's U.S. TV deal and wants to be on more than beIN Sports.
The American president of Bordeaux has an eye on scouting U.S players.
— Jonathan Tannenwald (@thegoalkeeper) July 27, 2019
It’s reasons like this as to why the Bundesliga is leaving FOX Sports. The German league is often not on Fox Sports 1 and Fox because of college basketball/football and NASCAR. Sometimes matches are relegated to Fox Sports 2, which isn’t ideal for a league trying to grow in the US. After this season, the Bundesliga will be exclusively on ESPN+, which is a good and bad situation.
Good that the fans will have access to all the matches in one platform like those who support Serie A. However, the Italian league hasn’t benefitted much from the move. They’re out of sight and out of mind and don’t have their marquee matches on a nationwide network sometimes. Perhaps the Bundesliga will have a different fate than Serie A on ESPN+.
Can Ligue 1 Get a Better Deal?
Going back to Ligue 1, if French football fans in the US are hoping for the league to look at other providers, they’ll have to wait four more years. The league’s rights in the US belong to beIN Sports until 2024 and pays them $80 million a year, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Furthermore, when taking a look at the money Ligue 1 is raking in from their US deal with beIN Sports isn’t all that much. Domestically, the league is bringing in over $1.3 billion per season. When examining what they earned in the US as compared to France, the television deal they have here isn’t a good one.
Also, not many homes have access to the channel, and it doesn’t help that it seems like every year beIN Sports disputes with cable providers. Most recently, they are at odds with Comcast as reported by World Soccer Talk. The channel is already tricky to find for the league to attract new fans, take them off certain cable providers it becomes even harder.
It’s in the best interest of the league and its growth to look elsewhere. Ligue 1 has to go where it’s the main course for a network. ESPN+ isn’t it, and neither is FOX Sports. However, one channel that’s out of the box is partnering with Turner Sports. In the US, Turner has the rights to the UEFA Champions League, so the network is dipping its toes with football. If Turner wants to continue their venture into the sport, they’ll need to acquire the rights to a league.
For Ligue 1, Turner is a good option. First and foremost, they’d be the main event with no other competition. Second, Turner has multiple channels that are easily accessible, like TNT and TBS. Nonetheless, the network does need to make some changes, such as hiring actual football analysts and not basketball players. There potential, but it’s a leap a faith, and if Ligue 1 wants to grow in the US, it might have to that leap.
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