MUNICH – The week started with happy news for German hockey fans. The top league DEL will move from almost two decades of pay TV to free-to-air broadcasting.
When the announcement was posted on the IIHF’s Facebook page, it got more likes than a story on a victory by Germany’s national team. And that’s not for no reason. For German hockey the step is almost a revolution.
Except for games from the World Championship, Olympics, exhibition games of the national team and a limited amount of eight league games, hockey almost disappeared from German TV screens since the clubs of the top league decided to bank on pay TV and receive more money back in the ‘90s.
Ever since doing this step there has been criticism because disappearing from TV screens – at least of the population’s majority – also meant disappearing from the minds of sport fans and potential sponsors.
For the next four years the DEL signed a deal with Austria-based free-to-air channel ServusTV that will broadcast one regular-season game per week on Sunday in addition to bigger play-off coverage and a worldwide webcast on LAOLA1.tv each Friday. This should amount to about 40 games on TV per season and as many through the live stream. Recaps will be available from all games.
“We continue our way of presenting hockey at high-quality standards with our new partners, and as of now it will be for free for everybody,” DEL General Manager Gernot Tripcke said at a press conference.
“We are convinced that we will not only give a big stimulus for marketing the DEL, but also for the popularity of German ice hockey.”
The announcement coincides with Red Bull’s recent investment in Munich’s financially troubled club EHC München where it becomes the main and name sponsor. The new club logo looks basically the same as the company’s Austrian hockey team Red Bull Salzburg.
The TV deal means a second entry into the German ice hockey market, as ServusTV is also owned by the energy drink giant. It is available in 80 per cent of German’s households through cable networks and also in Austria and Switzerland. It has already been covering games from the Austria-based EBEL league with live broadcasting.
“With free-to-air TV broadcasting of ice hockey in Germany we want to provide this fascinating sport with the significance it deserves,” said ServusTV CEO Martin Blank. “ServusTV stands for a new, unique and high-quality coverage. Hockey fans can look forward to live games in best HD quality.”
According to media reports the TV deal will be worth approximately the same amount it was in the past with €3 million per season for the league, a number that’s higher than what is paid for TV rights in top leagues of other popular indoor sports in Germany such as handball or basketball.
The DEL is expected to be staged with the same 14 teams next season, and for the first time ever it will organize an outdoor game with the DEL Winter Game in Nuremberg’s football stadium when the local Ice Tigers will face champion Eisbären Berlin on 5 January 2013.