Bilingual soccer channel Gol TV has reached a three-year TV rights renewal deal with the Bundesliga.
Gol TV netted the pact, terms of which were not disclosed, for the top German futbol circuit's 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons. The soccer-centric network, which makes its feeds available in English or Spanish, depending on distributors' needs, also scored rights in South America, as well as match rights on the Internet.
The deal follows Gol TV's recent extension with La Liga, Spain's leading soccer circuit, for a similar time frame and streaming match rights. The soccer network's current deals with both the German and Spanish league expire with the conclusion of their seasons in Europe later this spring.
Gol's other cornerstone live-match programming comes top leagues in Brazil and Colombia, according to Gol TV COO Rodrigo Lombello.
He said the Bundesliga agreement, typically covers two to four live games per week -- most on the weekends -- spread over 34 rounds.
As is the case with La Liga, there are often too many Bundesliga matches in the same windows on the weekends. In particular, Lombello said there can be four to five matches at the same time on Sunday from Spain. As such, Lombello said Gol is contemplating its next distribution gambit.
"We are getting a lot of requests, especially from fans of La Liga, but also from those asking for Bundesliga matches, to see more of the games live," said Lombello, who notes Gol TV is considering sublicensing the matches to another carrier, or developing an Internet package. "When it comes to broadband, a lot of Hispanics are not there yet, and the quality is not the same as on TV. We are assessing our options."
Lombello said Gol TV's goal is to have a game plan for multiple match presentations in place for the kickoff of the new Bundesliga and La Liga seasons in late summer. "We'd like to make all of the games available. If not all of them, we want to three or four others live concurrent with the match airing on Gol TV, " said Lombello.
He also said Gol TV is making strides toward presenting some of its soccer coverage in HD next year: We're having discussions with our distributors. A lot of the matches from Europe are now being shot in HD. I think you'll see some of our programming in HD during the second or third quarter of 2010."
In the meantime, Gol TV continues to build its subscription base back up. The network lost customers on Dish Network last year and is now engaged in litigation over funds it says it's owed by the No. 2 satellite operator.
Dish dropped Gol TV when its contract expired on Aug. 1, 2008, and the license fee dispute served to reduce Gol TV's sub count overall to about 12 million from 14 million. Included in that total was a drop in Hispanic households from about 3.6 million to 3.3 million, according to Gol TV officials.
Lombello said that Gol is on target to reach the 14 million plateau again by year-end, owing to a combination of new system rollouts with extant affiliates, as well as organic growth on both sports tiers and Hispanic packages, where it is principally positioned.
Pointing to success the network and operator have enjoyed following Gol TV's move to Comcast's digital-basic offering in the Miami area in October 2007, Lombello argues that the network would perform better for distributors in top Latino markets like Los Angeles, Dallas and New York if it were also available on more deeply penetrated tiers in those DMAs.
Looking ahead on the rights front, Lombello said Gol is monitoring the English Premier League rights, currently held by Fox Soccer Channel and Setanta Sports in the U.S.
"We're evaluating the situation to see if there is a way we can participate," he said, adding that "we have the funds" to be in that game.
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