The impact of COVID-19 on the world of professional sport has been unprecedented. The majority of the world's leagues and competitions have been suspended for some weeks now, in many cases for the first time since World War II. However, as certain countries are starting to emerge from lockdown, so too are their sports leagues. This has led to an interesting situation regarding broadcasting rights.
For sports fans, regular weekend fixtures were sorely missed, and so with such an increase in demand it was no surprise to see a scramble for broadcasting rights when South Korea's K-League football competition returned on 8 May. The league signed media rights deals in no less than 36 countries, ensuring a significantly higher level of coverage and global interest in the competition than in past seasons.
Germany's Bundesliga was arguably the first truly top-level football league to return to action, on 16 May. For league executives, this must have been seen as a unique opportunity to boost the league's brand image and media share around the world. The opening weekend saw BT Sport take advantage of the suspension of the UK's usual 3pm broadcast blackout to show games live on television and as live streams through their app. In the meantime, interest from football fans in other countries has likely never been higher, which will surely improve the value of the Bundesliga as a commodity.
However, the move was not without criticism as commentators pointed to issues surrounding player safety and lack of atmosphere in stadiums that will remain empty for the time being.
With Spain's La Liga set to resume in June, along with the New Zealand Super Rugby franchises completing their season in a reduced format and "low-contact" sports such as golf, tennis and horse racing slated for a return later this year, it will be interesting to see whether broadcasters will continue to scoop up any available competitions or whether normal service will be resumed.
With most countries on lock-down, it is not surprising that international broadcasters will focus their attention on those leagues which have been able to resume.