Kay Dammholz is the vice-president for sales and audio-visual rights of DFL Sports Enterprises, a subsidiary of the German Football League. He deals with worldwide sales of all Bundesliga media rights, and is the main point of contact for domestic Bundesliga broadcasters. In an interview with The Hindu on the sidelines of a workshop at DFL headquarters, he spoke at length on the vast Bundesliga market, steps to popularise the league in India, and the excitement of watching the league on high definition and YouTube.
Which is the largest television market for the Bundesliga?
Of course, the largest market is our domestic market. Outside of it, we have the European markets namely Poland and Scandinavia. Moving outside Europe, the Middle-East is very strong. In Asia, we have Hong Kong, Indonesia and Japan, and in the west, it is Brazil.
With regards to India, we see it as a strong, potential and growing market, but in terms of revenue and eyeballs, we aren’t where we should be. We have our eyes on it, but currently it’s not yet become a large television market for us.
Where does India stand in terms of priority for the Bundesliga?
The Indian market is definitely one of the top ten markets that we target with our international marketing strategy. It’s a huge country in terms of interest in football. So, we will focus many of our activities in India in future.
With an eye on the growing Asian market, will the Bundesliga look at advanced kick-off times to make the product more popular in the region?
The answer is no. The Bundesliga’s traditional kick-off time is Saturday 3.30 p.m. Ideally, the football fans — the pure football fans — would like to see all games played at the same time — nine games at 3.30 pm. Obviously, we have to compromise with those fans. It would be wonderful to have an early kick-off time in a top match like say in the English Premier League, but it just will not happen in Germany.
Comparing the Bundesliga with other top flight leagues like the EPL and La Liga, why is the latter more popular, despite the Bundesliga being one of the most competitive in Europe?
There are many reasons. Mostly, a historic reason. They (the English) had a head-start of 15-20 years, especially the English Premier League. There is a historical connection, a cultural connection between Commonwealth countries and former colonies; English is a language that is easily understood and spoken. England has also been successful internationally, and has attracted the big stars early. It’s difficult to compete with that. So we have to compete in another way by just creating a perfect competition — perfect football, perfect stadia, high attendances, equal opportunities for all clubs so that anyone can beat anyone.
But it didn’t work so well this season with Bayern having such a phenomenal run. As a result we have to win slowly by introducing this fantastic league to the people with the help of broadcasters and media. Once the people begin to experience the concept, they will enjoy it. That’s our belief. In the long run, we will close the gap at the top, but not anytime in the near future.
How do you plan to popularise the league in India?
We need to move the Bundesliga closer to the market; and try to educate in schools and inform about the Bundesliga; we need to show the sports fans what the league really is. We can achieve that by having a big presence in newspapers, internet, blogs, using all kinds of social media; to be out there and be relevant and talked about. If we manage to do that, then we create a curiosity and eventually a fan base. But this is a process which will take place over the next five years. That is our next big mission.
Is the DFL happy with its presence and coverage in India?
We are really happy with the Bundesliga’s development and the partnership building up with Neo Sports; the commercial terms have also improved over the years, so we are definitely happy going forward. We are very positive about the future because there is a growing interest in the game. In terms of broadcast distribution with Neo, we can be very happy with the number of games that are being shown.
What we have to work on though is to take the day-to-day lives of the average Indian sports fan into consideration. Just by showing the games live at a certain time slot, and hoping for the fans to tap into it and come back next week is not enough. We need to do a lot more, and integrate better with our media partner. But we are not unhappy with the development as of today.
Any plans to broadcast the league in high definition?
We are upgrading from next season, where all the games will be available on HD all over the world. In India, it depends on our broadcaster. We haven’t upgraded just for the sake of it, but because there is an incredible demand for it.
We understand the Bundesliga is planning to have a presence on YouTube. Can you please talk to us about this exciting distribution strategy?
Yes, we are planning to have a YouTube channel from August 2013 (from the new season). We are doing it because we feel it is very very close to the core product, and helps create synergies and cross-promotions to our sponsors, broadcasters and clubs. I’ sure it will be a big hit with the fans.
The first stage will be in English. We will still continue to work on it in the coming months.