(NOTE: If it wasn’t obvious enough already, this article is an April Fool’s Joke)
In a groundbreaking move that is breathtaking in both its scope and vision the International Handball Federation (IHF), European Handball Federation (EHF) and the Major National Handball Leagues (Germany, Spain, France and Denmark) announced today a TV partnership that will broadcast literally thousands of Handball matches to all corners of the world. The new partnership simply called HANDBALL.TV will offer multi-tiered packages over domestic networks, satellite and web streaming.
IHF President Hassan Moustafa, who has taken his share of criticism for his handling of the Asian Olympics controversy, was positively beaming at the press conference. “As the IHF President, I take great pride in knowing that we were all able to set aside our own organizational interests for the common good. Divided, we were starting to see our sport out-marketed by entities like the American basketball association. Even their professional hockey league had greater penetration than handball. By partnering together we are going to be able to provide a consistent high quality product to our fan base in Europe and more importantly we will see our sport become a significant player in areas where it currently has little presence.”
USA Marketing Plan
As evidence of this broader market goal, the partnership also announced a major agreement with ESPN, the number one sports network in the USA, which will see Handball broadcast on TV regularly for the first time ever in that country. Tentative plans are for one live match to be shown every Saturday morning in the USA at 10:00 AM (East Coast) on ESPN 2. ESPN Programming Director, Jeff Smith, indicated that this time slot would be ideal to expose Americans to the sport as the only shows it will be competing against will be preview shows for the traditional college football or basketball that is played on Saturday afternoons. In addition to the live match, 1 to 2 taped delayed matches are to be shown midweek at an undisclosed time. Financial details of the arrangement were not announced, but it’s clear that HANDBALL.TV is actually paying ESPN an undisclosed amount to broadcast 1 match a week on the network. HBL Exec Director, Allen Klar, who is heading the American marketing efforts, summed it up like this. “With 300 Million potential handball fans this affluent market is just too big to be ignored any longer. We’re confident that our product, top level handball, we’ll quickly develop a following in the States. And we have incentive clauses in terms of increased viewership which will in the long term prove lucrative for HANDBALL.TV. We might lose money the first few years of this deal, but it will pay huge dividends in the long term.”
USA Broadcasts will Feature Rule Changes and Production Innovations
To help American audiences understand and acclimate to this hitherto under-televised sport, several rule changes were approved at a recent meeting of HANDBALL.TV and ESPN executives. Matches broadcast in the USA will have 4 15-minutes quarters for additional commercial breaks. “This was a keystone in our negotiations,” said ESPN’s Smith, “we have several big name advertisers lined up for this and we needed to create more time for them.” When pressed for details, Smith would only say that a major German Brewery would be using Handball as part of major nationwide marketing campaign in the USA. Smith also said that production would include new features such as an overhead tracking camera and Juggs gun speed tracking of shots on goal.
The Ultimate Web TV Package
But while the traditional TV deal is big news for Handball, the scope and vision of the Web streaming packages is even more dramatic. Handball fans will have the choice of several internet packages which will allow them to follow their favorite club, league, or national side all season long. And for the true Handball aficionado there is the Ultimate package which will include every Champions League match, 4 matches a week from the German HBL and Spanish Liga ASOBAL, 2 matches a week from the Danish and French League, as well as all of the matches from National Team competitions like the World and European Championships. Priced at $99/year this package also includes different language tracks and a bit rate of 2,000 Kbs which will provide near TV clarity for viewers.
This Week in Handball
Helping fans to sort out all these choices will be a new 30 minute World Handball show which will include highlights of key matches as well as player profiles and interviews. Tentatively titled “This Week in Handball” the show will be hosted by Paul Bray and a TBD American sport personality. This product will also be offered as a free download.