OPINION: There is room for more upside as Germans adjust to television as the only way to see live soccer this spring and summer and international soccer fans in the U.K., Europe, North America and elsewhere warm up to Bundesliga as a beacon for the return of live sports around the world
Bulls of the Week
As the first major sports league to resume play last weekend, it’s no surprise the German Bundesliga had another bullish week — or at least as bullish a week as possible during this novel coronavirus pandemic and unprecedented disruption and economic upheaval.
The Bundesliga protocol revolved around empty home stadiums and allowed for just 300 authorized people in each venue, including players, coaches, team support staff, referees, media and minimalistic stadium operations.
The “new normal” pioneered by the Bundesliga and its sport science and medical leadership also featured sign-ins and temperature scans for all those assigned to work or cover the matches, including limited accredited media and broadcasters.
That latter component — media coverage and the activation of television broadcasts and streaming — was and is at the heart of the rationale to complete the now eight match weeks remaining without fans in the stands. And based on the early TV results, the Bundesliga is off to a good start.
Sky Deutschland generated record national audiences of five million viewers across its various platforms, cross-promoted by the Bundesliga equivalent of the NFL’s RedZone. Those numbers could spike further Monday night when Amazon Prime offers a featured match between Werder Bremen and Bayer Leverkusen for free in Germany.
The lofty numbers don’t include international telecasts, such as the 1.4 million British fans who watched Borussia Dortmund and Schalke on BT Sport; five times the regular audience for Bundesliga matches in the United Kingdom.
There is room for more upside as Germans adjust to television as the only way to see live soccer this spring and summer and international soccer fans in the U.K., Europe, North America and elsewhere warm up to Bundesliga as a beacon for the return of live sports around the world.
Bears of the Week
Baseball is in tough at all levels as the COVID-19 pandemic officially heads into its 10th week.
Off the top, Major League Baseball and its MLB Players’ Association are negotiating the terms around what could be a compressed half-season of 80 games beginning the first week in July.
While they’ve made good progress this week on the health and safety protocols, they still have a huge chasm to cross on player compensation. The billionaire owners want revenue sharing; the millionaire athletes want no part of it. To them, revenue sharing, even a seemingly fair 50-50, is code for salary cap. The strongest union in North American sport is hardly likely to give that up.
Yet the uncertainty around MLB is only part of the problem for baseball.
The COVID-19 outbreak could shutter all but the strongest minor league baseball franchises. Without the multibillion-dollar TV revenues that MLB gleans from its lucrative national and regional deals, MiLB is largely gate-driven. That means no fans in the stands means no games for most minor league franchises.
Combined with MLB already delivering a gut punch to many small-town franchises by streamlining its system of minor league affiliates, baseball’s vertical is seriously in jeopardy. And what hurts minor league baseball at the grassroots today will hurt MLB down the road.
This is the closest thing to a real, protracted bear market that the sport has faced since the mid-1990s.
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