Germany’s Bundesliga season returns on May 16, bringing live professional sports back to U.S. network partners Fox and Univision for the first time in two months.
Univision is marking the league’s comeback by ramping up pre and-post-game programming and digital coverage for its Hispanic audience, according to Eric Conrad, Univision’s executive vice president of sports programming and acquisitions.
In addition to studio shows, Univision this week will air both executive and player interviews featuring Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies and RB Leipzig’s U.S. men’s international Tyler Adams. Weekly Bundesliga-related shows “BundesGOL” and “Somos Bundesliga” will also be brought back until the end of the season.
“We have treated the Bundesliga’s return as a huge event for us. This is above and beyond a typical week of programming and I think that’s obviously a credit to our team for saying that we know our fans are clamoring for the return of live events,” Conrad said. “We would always have interviews, but perhaps not this many with executives, players, and even former players.”
Univision has populated its 24-hour TUDN sports network, website, and social media feeds with facts and anecdotes to promote the return of the Bundesliga. The network’s broadcast relationship with the league dates back to 2017.
This weekend’s three fixtures on TUDN and UniMás will incorporate new protocols installed by the Bundesliga and serve as a litmus test for how the network will approach the remaining weeks of the season, Univision Senior Vice President of Live Events Miguel Angel Garcia said.
According to guidelines sent to networks by the league, players will wear masks and practice social distancing when participating in interviews with local media. Players in warmups will also wear masks.
Univision says it will have on-air talent predominantly working remotely to bring the game to fans at home. Production teams will also likely work out of two control rooms to abide by CDC protocols.
“Fans will not be watching games as they are used to at least for now,” Garcia said, alluding to no crowds allowed in stadiums.
The Bundesliga will have the same amount of on-field cameras and mics available for networks. Univision has no plans of pumping fake natural sound into broadcasts to replicate normal game conditions.
“We will keep broadcasts as is,” Garcia said. “It’s going to be the first opportunity for our production team, for the fans, and the viewers to experience something new. We’re going to be learning what works, what we can make better for remaining games, and when other leagues decide to begin their events.”
Univision airs more than 90 Bundesliga matches per season across its TUDN and UniMas networks. The company sublicenses its Spanish language rights from Fox, which will air Bundesliga games on May 16 and May 17 on its FS1 and FS2 cable networks. Fox will also move its new web series “Fox Indoor Soccer” to Mondays to recap the weekend’s games.
Both Fox and Univision’s media deals are set to expire at the end of the season, with ESPN+ taking over both Spanish and English language broadcasts in the U.S. this summer.
Univision will continue to air programming around the Bundesliga after this season to keep fans plugged into the league. The network also owns the U.S. Spanish language rights to MLS, Liga MX, and the UEFA Champions League, among other soccer properties. Meanwhile, Fox holds the rights to both the men’s and women’s FIFA World Cup. Fox declined to comment on this story.
In the absence of Bundesliga matches, Univision has aired classic games from around the league, some featuring live commentary. But the Bundesliga’s return has sparked plenty of interest from advertisers, including three new brand sponsors. Univision did not disclose the names of the companies.
“The Bundesliga has been great about allowing their partners to commercialize the platform. So that’s what has allowed us to go out and get more,” Conrad said. “Conversations are still ongoing for a few other sponsors to become integrated.”