Bundesliga eyes TV cash to bolster league

Christian Seifert: The aim is to continue to make the Bundesliga stronger--sports-wise and economically speaking, with a view on the fans in the stadia and the millions of viewers in front of the TV screens

Bundesliga to increase its viewership   -  AP

Germany's Bundesliga is expected to award Thursday the broadcasting rights for four seasons as it looks to multiple buyers to bulk up its coffers in the battle against other top-flight European leagues. On the eve of the European championships, the German league will announce which media outlets it has picked to screen live the first and second division matches for the 2017-18 to 2020-21 seasons.

"The aim is to continue to make the Bundesliga stronger -- sports-wise and economically speaking, with a view on the fans in the stadia and the millions of viewers in front of the TV screens," said Christian Seifert, chief of the DFL or Deutsche Fussball Liga. Eight packages for live screening rights, which besides the matches also include press conferences of the league's biggest clubs--including Bayern Munich or Dortmund--are up for grabs.

Pay-television channel Sky currently has a monopoly, but this has been smashed by the German anti-cartel office's decision in April dictating a "no single buyer rule". Besides Sky, bidders for the TV packages could include Eurosport, ARD or Sport1, while those for mobile and online platforms are expected to include Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone and Amazon, according to German media.

If a single bidder secures the TV rights, then the rights to web and mobile broadcasts will have to go to another competitor, the Bundesliga said. Having more than one buyer simply means that the DFL stands a better chance of bolstering its coffers. Under the contract awarded in 2012, TV revenues for the coming season were expected to reach 673 million euros for domestic screenings, and 162 million for the foreign marketing. But those are paltry sums compared to the English Premier League's 2.3 billion euros a season deal. The UK agreement is worth a total of 5.14 billion pounds, and is only for three years and domestic screenings. Add international broadcasts to the mix and the deal is worth just over 8 billion pounds.

Rising transfer fees, salaries

As the TV bonanza is shared out among clubs, English sides are raking it in, and players are voting with their feet. Several Bundesliga stars have left for the Premier League over the past year. Kevin de Bruyne's record transfer to Manchester City earned Wolfsburg a reported 79.8 million euros (£58 million, $89.3 million) last August.

Son Heung-Min joined Tottenham Hotspur for £22 million from Leverkusen in the same month after Liverpool paid Hoffenheim £29 million for Roberto Firmino last June and Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger signed for Manchester United for £14 million from Bayern Munich in July. To stand a chance against the lucrative contracts offered by major Premier League sides, the Bundesliga is hoping to obtain at least 1 to 1.5 billion euros in TV rights revenues. Bayern Munich boss Karl-Heinz Rummenigge noted that "transfer fees will continue to rise, but most of all, the salaries, and that will be a bigger problem for the Bundesliga".

"The players know today exactly how much they can make in Spain, in Italy and, above all, in England," he told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in an interview. Reiterating his backing for the sharing out of TV revenues, Rummenigge said he hoped that "the total revenue intake would rise, as that would help the entire league". Noting the 18 points gap between Bundesliga runner-up Dortmund and third placed Leverkusen, he said he hoped more clubs would make it a closer fight for the leaders. "That would make it more exciting and help the entire league in the international business arena."

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