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Bayern and the Bundesliga on ESPN: HELL JA!

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With the first matchday in the books, it’s safe to say that the Bundesliga’s move to ESPN+ is a massive win for everyone. ESPN is giving the Bundesliga the in-depth coverage it deserves.

FBL-GER-BUNDESLIGA-DORTMUND-MOENCHENGLADBACH Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images

If you’re a Bundesliga fan in the United States, you may have tuned in to ESPN yesterday with some anticipation: what would ESPN’s coverage of the Bundesliga be like? Here at BFW, the verdict is in: the Bundesliga on ESPN+ kicks butt.

ESPN featured the season opener, Bayern vs Schalke — the inaugural game of their tenure as the new rights-holder — both on “linear TV” (that is, on real, live television) and on their streaming service, ESPN+. That will be the true of a handful of further key matches.

ESPN executive VP Russell Wolff said in a virtual Q&A that the company planned to feature 4-8 Bundesliga matches on live TV, but ESPN+ is emphatically the home of Bundesliga coverage in the US, where all 300+ games will be available.

Scott Guglielmino, ESPN’s senior VP for programming, stressed that ESPN would take a “thoughtful” approach to choosing which matches go on linear TV, the goal being to “drive awareness” of the Bundesliga.

Bayern Munich certainly delivered on that promise on Friday: the newly crowned Champions League winner demolished Schalke 04 in an entertaining 8-0 goal-fest. The highlight of the games slated for Saturday, Borussia Dortmund versus Borussia Mönchengladbach, also delivered: 17-year-old American youth prodigy Gio Reyna scored the opening goal in a 3-0 win for the Yellow and Black.

The broadcasts were outstanding — Bayern’s game on Friday featuring our friend Derek Rae as the lead commentator alongside former player Taylor Twellman. But don’t take it from me:

ESPN has also created a slate of programming in support of the game broadcasts. Story-telling was a key word at the press Q&A. As Bundesliga CEO Robert Klein put it, the league wanted a partner that would tell the stories “around the game”: ESPN is doing that, among other things, by highlighting the Bundesliga on their daily show, ESPN FC, which ran a preview special and has already put out some great video content.

For example, you can already relive Leroy Sané’s electric debut versus Schalke — seven minutes of highlights:

And if you have another 25 minutes free, you can savor the “Top 50 Bundesliga Goals of 2019-20”:

Needless to say, we’ve bookmarked their Youtube channel.

ESPN will also show a feature on Gio Reyna, son of former USMNT captain Claudio Reyna, on Sunday (Sept. 30). Having seen an advance screening at the Q&A, I can say it is a moving profile of the young BVB star.

In addition to this season’s games, ESPN has already made available the first 10 of a total of 50 historic matches, like Schalke’s (in)famous 4-4 “Derbysieger” comeback against Dortmund in the 2017/18 season. ESPN will even feature a 2.Bundesliga game of the week and potentially more from Germany’s exciting second division.

And ESPN is also producing content that plays to BFW’s particular strength: text. Derek Rae will write a weekly column about the Bundesliga, and ESPN will also produce a biweekly column dedicated to the American stars of the Bundesliga.

Probably the best thing of all is how reasonable the package is: $6 bucks a month or $50 for the year. That’s for the Bundesliga and everything else on ESPN+. Russell stated that the number of subscribers to ESPN+ jumped from 2.4 million to 8.5 million subscribers since they acquired the rights. I’m not surprised.