BERLIN (Reuters) - ESPN+, Walt Disney Co’s sports video streaming service, will be the U.S. home for the Bundesliga from next season until the 2026 World Cup after it acquired the rights for the German top league for a six-year period, the Bundesliga and ESPN+ said on Monday.
The deal, starting August 2020, is a year longer than the previous agreement with FOX, in order to run up to the World Cup co-hosted by the United States.
"We had extensive discussions with a number of parties. ESPN+ is the latest revelation in the streaming services," Bundesliga International CEO Robert Klein told Reuters in an interview.
"It was clear from the start that ESPN and ESPN+ shared our ambitious vision. As innovators in the sports industry, we are both driven to deliver highly engaging content for fans."
The longer contract sees the deal run to the 2026 World Cup with the Bundesliga currently home to more American players (11) than any other top European league.
The United States will co-host the World Cup with Mexico and Canada.
"We decided that this was a good duration also because of the narrative and the development that the Bundesliga has in the U.S. national team," Klein said.
"Germany will continue to be an important source of talent for future US national teams. To drive that (narrative) to the World Cup made sense in terms of the time period."
ESPN+ is the multi-sport, direct-to-consumer video service from The Walt Disney Company’s Direct-to-Consumer and International (DTCI) segment and ESPN.
With more than two million subscribers currently, ESPN+ could attract up to 12 million paying subscribers by the end of the fiscal 2024 year, Disney has said.
Video streaming competition is intensifying with more companies taking the plunge as customers are dropping cable TV in favour of digital offerings.
The Bundesliga's media revenues for the 2017-18 season stood at 1.24 billion euros ($1.35 billion), with the overwhelming majority generated by the league's domestic rights deal.
Klein did not say how the ESPN+ deal would impact that figure.
"It is going in the right direction," he said of its impact on the overall media revenue figure.
Revenues for Germany's top two divisions in 2017-18 rose by more than 10% year-on-year to 4.42 billion euros, marking the 14th consecutive year of growth.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Christian Radnedge)
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