Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. The German football league, or Bundesliga, has set out to boost its presence and viewership in Indonesia as part of efforts to attract more fans in Asia as it seeks to catch up with the English Premier League – the world's largest.
The Bundesliga is the second largest league in the world, having generated revenue of about €2.7 billion ($3.3 billion) in the 2015/2016 season, compared with the Premier League's €4.9 billion, according to Deloitte's "2017 Annual Review of Football Finance."
According to the report, the Bundesliga is on track to generate €3.2 billion in the 2018/2019 season, thanks to new international broadcast rights, but it still below the €5.1 billion projected for the Premier League, which still dominates key markets in Asia.
Sports research firm Repucom said more than 1.3 billion Asians watch the Premier League, most of them in Indonesia, based on the Global Web Index Report, released in 2015.
Around 125 million Indonesians, or about half of the country's population, watch Premier League matches on television every week, according to the report. Such a massive market is more than enough to ensure advertising revenues for local television stations, which in turn line up to buy broadcasting rights.
Rajawali Citra Televisi Indonesia (RCTI), the country's largest television station, and its sister station MNC TV, hold free-to-air television broadcasting rights for the Premier League in Indonesia, while beIN Sports offers paid subscriptions.
But the number of Bundesliga fans in Indonesia is far lower than for the Premier League as no local TV stations currently bother to air them. The fact that Bundesliga matches are aired at around the same time as Premier League matches also does not help.
Bundesliga matches are currently only available on Fox Sport on cable TV.
"There's no doubt that the Premier League is the most popular league in the world and they have several advantages, like the language and their [former] colonies," said Maurice Gorges, Bundesliga marketing and sales manager for Asia Pacific.
But the Bundesliga is adamant that it wants to change this by increasing its digital presence to appeal to more Indonesians, who have a massive presence on Twitter and Facebook.
"We cannot deny that Indonesia, with such a large population, is a hot market," Gorges said.
Bundesliga teams post exclusive video content on social media. Bavarian club Bayern Munich often streams live training sessions and junior matches on its Facebook account.
"The easiest way to reach a global audience now is through the digital world," Schalke 04 board member Alexander Jobst told journalists at Veltins Arena, the club's home ground in Gelsenkirchen, North Rhine-Westphalia.
The club is currently looking at also presenting content on its website in Bahasa Indonesia, in addition to English, Russian, Japanese and Chinese.
Bayern sometimes posts social media content in Bahasa Indonesia, but not as regularly as some English clubs.
In 2016, several European football clubs, including Bayern, joined in on the "om telolet om" craze, which originated in Indonesia as a phrase used by children asking bus drivers to honk their horns.
Jochen Rotthaus, marketing and communications director at Bayer Leverkusen in North Rhine-Westphalia, said German football clubs must find new markets to make them sustainable.
"The national market has been emptied out, stagnant, so Asia is important for our brand building now," Rotthaus said. "In the future, we will get more power and presence in cities like Shanghai, Beijing and Singapore. It is the future."
Founded in 1962, the German football league comprises 36 clubs, 18 of which play in the second-tier league, known as Bundesliga 2.
The leagues are operated by the Deutsche Fussball Liga, a company jointly owned by the clubs, which together determine its strategic direction. The DFL has several business units, including Sportec Solutions, a company that supplies match data, and Sportcast, which has broadcast nearly 8,200 live Bundesliga matches since 2006.
The DFL established Bundesliga International, a subsidiary responsible for global marketing and sales operations, in July last year.
German football has long been known for its sustainability, with not a single professional club ever having become insolvent, in contrast with the English, who have had 54 bankrupt clubs since the Premier League was founded in 1992, according to a report by British newspaper, the Daily Mail.
This sustainability is by design and results from the "50+1" ownership model that applies to most professional clubs in Germany, except a few private clubs such as Bayer Leverkusen (owned by pharmaceutical giant Bayer) and VfL Wolfsburg (owned by automaker Volkswagen).
Large clubs such as Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04 are owned by supporters under the "50+1" rule, which means 51 percent ownership by supporters.
With this model, German clubs make their most important decisions by voting, including how they determine ticket prices. Tickets for Bundesliga matches are more affordable than those for Premier League matches, with some priced as low as €10.
It is therefore no wonder that Bundesliga matches averaged 91 percent attendance last year.
The ownership system also prevents high-risk decisions such as the acquisition of expensive players, but there are concerns that this model makes it difficult for German clubs to compete with their English, Italian and Spanish counterparts, most of which are private entities.
Although private ownership allows clubs to acquire football superstars, which are usually great performance boosters, German clubs seem to be a unanimous regarding their model.
"Two weeks ago, the 36 clubs voted to uphold the '50+1' rule," said Gorges of the Bundesliga.
The Jakarta Globe was part of a group of 15 journalists from Southeast Asia invited by Germany's top football league to visit clubs in Dortmund, Leverkusen and Gelsenkirchen on April 13-16.