It’s Friday, 2030 CET, and the Bundesliga is kicking off. People all around the world gather to see Bayer Leverkusen have the first crack of the season against reigning champs Bayern München. It’s an age old tradition in the Wildhagen household to watch the first round of Fussball in front of the television with some beer and other unhealthy snacks, but this year this tradition comes to an abrupt and unbecoming end. Is it work or other family related matters that are keeping me from following this most wonderful of traditions you might wonder?
No. It’s the fact that the Bundesliga TV rights haven’t been sold to any broadcaster here in Norway, which means that the Bundesliga won’t be shown at all on the television come this weekend. I won’t be able to watch the opening, my favourite team’s matches or any other kick of the ball happening in a German stadium in the following weeks. If the fans of Fussball are really unlucky they won’t be able to watch anything from the Bundesliga at all this season. So far there hasn’t been any indication that any of the big TV stations here in Norway are keen on picking up the rights to the league.
The English malaise
Why, you might wonder? The Bundesliga is known to produce quality football and besides Bayern München being boring by winning the title every year there’s plenty of stuff to keep the fans excited. Furthermore, there are a host of Norwegian players who have had a go in the league over the last few years in addition to Hertha Berlin fielding two Norwegian players(Jarstein and Skjellbred) on a regular basis. All things considered, surely there must be one broadcaster or streaming company out there that wouldn’t mind to dish out the cash that allows them to market that tasty dish to their viewers and subscribers.
However, there’s just one tiny problem with that picture. Here in Norway people tend to get mad about English football. Yes, there might not be a single Norwegian player who is as prolific as Jarstein and Skjellbred are at Hertha, but culturally speaking Norwegians tend to like their football to be English. Back in the day when football arrived in Germany it was called “the English malaise” by the governing forces, these days one could say that many football fans in Norway have been infected with a malady that only allows them to follow English football. It has always been that way and very little is going to change that. Two Norwegian players have been key players for a side that has finished in a Europa League spot two years on the bounce in Germany, yet many football fans have barely noticed.
The blind love for anything English culminated last year in Discovery Norway buying the rights to the Championship. Back then the company also held the rights to the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2. However, after they had purchased the rights to some British football they ditched the Bundesliga from their TV schedule time and time again. Even matches like Bayer Leverkusen vs. Dortmund and the Revierderby weren’t broadcasted to a Norwegian TV audience(they were only available on Discovery’s streaming service).
Over the last few years German football has made some strides in increasing its global reach. However, that hasn’t necessarily extended to all markets. In Norway one could say that the league has suffered from a lack of faith and promotion by Eurosport Norway. At the end of the day those TV rights were bought to fill a time slot and not because the channel believed that it could increase its market share of the football viewing public dramatically. However, the DFL have increased their prices for the TV rights as the global audience has grown. At the end of the day Norwegian broadcasters might think that the rights are simply too expensive and for the league itself the Norwegian market might just represented an unimportant side note. The fact that neither VG or Dagbladet(the two biggest Norwegian tabloids) have decided to cover the lack of Bundesliga action on the television speaks volumes about how popular the league is perceived to be.
The things we do
So today I am going to sit in front of my computer, looking for some stream that can tie me over for now. Yes, I’m going back in time. Last season I had a secure streaming platform that brought every single minute of Bundesliga action my way. I could see any match I fancied. Now it’s back to the stone age for me. Streams breaking down, stopping at crucial moments and a lack of functioning streams used to be a thing of the past for the fans of German football. Now it’s the reality I’m settled with. Yet, I will keep following the league and watch as many matches as I possibly can.
Thinking about all of this it reminds me of the fact that several Bundesliga worldwide have suffered a much crueller fate than me. Those who live in Asia or in the US have to be up at ghastly hours at night or in the morning to watch their teams. The question of access has not always been settled in these markets either over the last few years. Yet, many fans of the league have managed to preserve all these years and I intend to do the same, hoping that somebody within the world of Norwegian sports broadcasting decides that it might worthwhile to show Bundesliga matches on the telly once again.