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Bundesliga finds South American home on Star+ in long-term ESPN deal

The German Bundesliga will be broadcast across nine South American countries by ESPN’s newly-launched Star+ streaming service under a five-year agreement announced this afternoon.

The long-term agreement in Spanish-speaking South America provides a permanent broadcast home in a region that has proved to be problematic for the Bundesliga since the expiry of the multi-territory Fox Networks Group deal at the end of the 2019-20 season.

ESPN has secured exclusive television and digital rights for all top-tier Bundesliga and second-tier 2. Bundesliga matches in both English and Spanish. The agreement also includes rights to the annual German Supercup and relegation play-offs.

The agreement runs from 2021-22 to 2025-26 and covers Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

Along with streaming on Star+, ESPN has committed to airing at least three fixtures per matchday on its linear channels across the region.

The streaming emphasis of the deal is evocative of the Bundesliga’s six-year US rights deal with ESPN+ announced two years ago.

Rights to the Bundesliga in the nine South American countries were held last season by telecoms operator Claro and football-focused streaming platform OneFootball. The deals were brokered by the Sportfive agency on behalf of Bundesliga International, the global rights sales arm of the league.

ESPN’s agreement excludes Brazil, where the rights are held by OneFootball and commercial free-to-air broadcaster Band.

South American players currently competing in the German top tier include Chile’s Charles Aránguiz and Lucas Alario (both Bayer Leverkusen) and Ecuador’s Carlos Gruezo (FC Augsburg).

Star+ launched in South America at the end of August, bundling together ESPN’s live sports content with animated comedies and series, entertainment programming and films.

Robert Klein, chief executive of Bundesliga International, said: “We are excited to build upon this trusted partnership with ESPN, which will allow us to bring the Bundesliga’s high intensity football closer to fans in Spanish-speaking South America.

“South American sports fans have a great passion for the Bundesliga, which has been developed over the years thanks to the number of high-quality players emanating from South America. Building on this foundation, this partnership will be instrumental in increasing viewership and brand recognition of one of the world’s top football divisions across the continent.”

Mike Walters, vice-president of programming and acquisitions at ESPN, added: “We are proud to expand our relationship with Bundesliga International to bring one of the most-competitive football leagues in the world closer to the fans in our region.

“In addition to the live broadcast of all matches on Star+, ESPN will televise a minimum of three matches per round on its linear channels and will also provide highlights and stories dedicated to the Bundesliga across its platforms. This will expand the scope of the league and drive local engagement in each country.” Sports Business

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