ehfTV with a Fresh New Look… but are the Days of Free Handball Numbered?

Things that make you go Hmm?: “Free” registration at an “ehfpayments” url.

<IMPORTANT UPDATE (3 July, 2020)>

The EHF has informed me that the answer to this question is “No. There are no plans whatsoever to change ehfTV to a paid subscription service. The misleading URL is a result of the switch to a new streaming partner which serves other entities that charge a subscription. The URL has been flagged for an update. The EHF, however, noted that handball fans will need to register and login to ehfTV to watch live matches. A small requirement, though, to watch the world’s best handball free.

<Original Article (Posted 2 July, 2020)>

ehfTV: The Best Thing Ever for Handball Fans in Far Flung Countries

Big things are a foot with the European Handball Federation (EHF). A new 10 year contract for TV and Marketing rights is now in full swing. The result: a revamped Champions League format, fresh new web pages and a new look ehfTV.

If you’re reading this article and are any kind of a handball fan you already know what ehfTV is. Why, it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me as a fan of the sport here in the U.S. All of the Champions League matches, European Cup matches and even the European Championships available* for free viewing. Free! What a deal.

Are the Days of a Free Ride Coming to an End?

ehfTV is such a good deal that I’ve been wondering for years just how long it would last (Article from 2016). I mean we have to credit the EHF for being so forward thinking with this positive promotion of the sport, but they are a business and “free” generally is not a smart long term business move.

And, indeed in some countries the free ride ended a few years ago. There’s an asterisk on “available” and that’s because some matches are geo-blocked in some countries if the TV rights have been sold. That’s totally understandable. If I was a TV network owner I wouldn’t want the match being shown for free elsewhere. I would want viewers watching my channel.

But, it’s only understandable if the match can actually be seen in the country in question. In the U.S., beIN Sports (the previous rights holder) usually only aired 1 match a week on a delayed basis on Wednesday mornings. But, because they had a TV contract that match and many others were geo-blocked. This was extremely frustrating and forced handball fans like me to use VPN to watch matches on line. VPN is a less than desired workaround, but as a paying beIN Sports subscriber I had no moral qualms with using that alternative.

A New U.S. Network?

With a new 10 year contract kicking in there is now a chance for the EHF Champions League being seen on a new network. There are several possibilities that hopefully are being considered. NBC is a possibility and they’ve already shown the 2019 Men’s and Women’s on the NBC Olympic Channel. Other possibilities include Fox Sports, CBS Sports Network, TNT, 11 Sports or yes, a return to beIN Sports.

My preferred choice, however, is ESPN and specifically a combination of ESPN linear channels and ESPN+. As this earlier commentary highlight ESPN+ practically begs for a dedicated handball sub-channel: Link

Maybe Everybody Pays?

But, there’s another model that might at some point come into play. If you’ve checked out the new ehfTV platform you may have noticed that it invites you to register for free: Link

But… the url is for Yup. The “free” registration is at “ehfpayments”. Which is certainly a “Hmm” moment. As in, “Why would you call it that?”

Pure speculation on my part, but I can envision the EHF eventually transitioning ehfTV to a tiered service with some matches still being free, but adding a subscription to watch more matches and additional content.

Assuming such a subscription was reasonably priced this would actually be a good solution. Some matches on regular TV, some matches on free ehfTV and some matches on premium ehfTV. Actually I could get real used to that. HBL, LNH… are you listening?