Handball on TV in the U.S. (With a Few Caveats)
Since mid-April a relatively new start up TV network, the All Sports TV Network, has been broadcasting handball 9 times/week in the U.S. If that headline sounds too good be to true, let’s just say that it does come with a few caveats. Probably the biggest caveat (for already converted handball fans) is that the handball being broadcast is simply repeats of the IHF Olympic Qualification Tournaments that took place in March. Matches that we’ve already seen and can re-watch anytime on the IHF YouTube channel: Link
Another caveat is that the network isn’t available on traditional cable or satellite packages. Instead their strategy is to focus on digital over air channels and on Over the Top (OTT) options like Roku and Amazon Fire. Their website indicates plans to reach up to 70 million homes, but it’s not clear whether that target has been met.
When and How to Watch
The All Sports TV Network is currently showing handball on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 0300, 1100 and 1900 (US ET). I think a different Olympic qualification match is being repeatedly shown each week and this week it’s a rebroadcast of the Germany vs Sweden Men’s match.
I checked it out via my Roku. To do that first search and add the All Sports TV Network to your channel lineup. Then click on the channel and watch. It’s a pretty decent stream with an HD picture.
Any Handball Exposure is a Good Thing
While this handball viewing opportunity isn’t a big deal for the handful of dedicated handball fans in the U.S. the old adage any promotion is good promotion applies here. The U.S. is a big country and undoubtedly some folks out there unfamiliar with handball are being exposed to the sport for the first time.
Here are a few quotes from the press release highlighting those opportunities:
“We are very excited about having the opportunity to bring team handball to American viewers,” stated ALL SPORTS President Roger Neal Smith. “We truly believe that the United States could, and should, become a major force in team handball. To that end, we plan to do everything we can to help make the American public become more aware of its existence.”
“This is a fantastic opportunity for an American audience to watch top tier handball as the sport continues to gain momentum leading up to the Olympic Games this summer”, stated Ryan Johnson, Chief Executive Officer of USA Team Handball. “The more exposure we can get for this sport in the US, the better. We’re grateful for ALL SPORTS’ efforts to make this happen.”
Again, while today this isn’t a big deal for the dedicated handball fan it does point the way for future opportunities. More and more TV viewing is shifting away from cable/satellite towards streaming/OTT options. Inevitably more handball will be finding its way to channels like the All Sports TV Network. Indeed beach handball has already been shown there and one could envision U.S. National Team matches and our Collegiate and Open Club National Championships eventually finding their way to channels like the All Sports TV Network. Maybe international viewing options too.
Would I prefer to have more prominent OTT options like ESPN+, Peacock and Paramount+ show handball instead? Of course; the more eyeballs the better. That being said sometimes networks like ESPN+ don’t provide the sort of promotion we would like. Case in point: ESPN’s promotion (or lack thereof) of during the 2021 World Championships.
Time will tell, but with handball’s low profile and very small fan base it might be necessary to first start at the lower end of the spectrum and then gradually work our way to more prominent networks. Further, as TV options become more and more fragmented and available for free/low cost a big name network might not even be a requirement to get the handball “foot” in the door.