La Liga on Facebook – Free Streaming Crosses the Big Pond
Spanish La Liga is the only major European football league yet to introduce the goal line technology. This is the case mainly due to relationship, or lack there of, between La Liga president Javier Tebas and Royal Spanish Football Federation president Angel Maria Villar. But, on the other hand, Spanish La Liga made a massive move forward regarding modernizing fans’ access to live coverage of the games, when they introduced free online Facebook streaming of the Friday La Liga games.
Major North American sport associations already introduced this practice a while ago, and even though English FA Cup broadcasted some of its games online for free, this is the first time that a major European football league competition managed to reach an agreement with its broadcasting partners and decided to broadcast series of games online free of charge.
This season La Liga already used Facebook Live to stream both Copa del Rey semi-finals, and now, the Spanish top division reached an agreement to become the first European Top 5 league to broadcast some of its games live on Facebook, in the case the Friday night games. La Liga officially started this massive project with the clash between Granada and Real Betis on February 17th. This was just the first in line of La Liga’s live Facebook streams, and they will continue at least until the end of this season almost every Friday night.
This project came to life after the agreement was reached between La Liga, global La Liga broadcast rights owners MEDIAPRO, La Liga’s North American broadcast partners since 2003, TV channel GolTV, and, of course, Facebook. These games will therefore be streamed live on both La Liga’s Facebook page and GolTV’s Facebook page.
Later in the year Women’s La Liga matches will also be available for streaming live through the same channels. This is not a surprise since, after reaching an agreement with BeIN Sports and Facebook, La Liga tested the waters for this project last season in May, with free Facebook broadcast of Women’s La Liga game between Atlético de Madrid Femenino and Athletic Club. This is believed to be the second football game that was streamed live on Facebook ever. The reports claim that game between Atlético de Madrid Femenino and Athletic Club managed to attract 370,000 unique users worldwide.
It was also reported that 2.5 million unique users watched the live Facebook stream of this season’s massive Copa del Rey semi-final game between Atlético Madrid and FC Barcelona. This broadcast gathered viewers from 45 different countries, and out of those 2.5 million unique users, about 2 million connected from Europe, about 250,000 connected from the Americas and about 146,000 connected from Asia and Oceania combined.
These numbers are still far behind NFL’s 15M unique viewers for their maiden free Yahoo broadcast, but it is not fair to compare this event with Yahoo’s, simple because Yahoo’s advertising made sure you would see the game as soon as you connected to their website, while this game you had to „find“ on your own.
million unique users who streamed Copa del Rey on Facebook
We have to assume that the Premier League has won the TV battle but we want to be on top when it comes to new ways to deliver content online.
There’s no doubt that in three or four years our business model will be different because the way fans are consuming content is changing so quickly.Nacho Trujillo
Even though, as I said before, men in charge of La Liga are not on good terms, they all understand the language of money and are well aware of the advantage the English Premier League has over any other league when it comes to TV broadcast revenue. Therefore, La Liga hopes they can overtake the Premier League in the long term, as early adopters of digital broadcasting channels, following the model already tested in North America.
Sometimes the competition is too strong to get beaten on traditional „battling“ grounds, because they have already made it their own, as is the case with the English Premier League and global TV broadcast rights. But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t create a whole new „battling” ground and beat your competition on it, as La Liga is trying to do with free online streaming.
Their logic so far seems very reasonable, even though I must admit, I’m writing as a big admirer of both paid and free legal online steaming on both social media and on other platforms. La Liga is aware that football is the most followed sport on Facebook and that being first at something, at least among your closest competitors, always gives you an advantage. Especially when this is already a tested model of broadcasting by both several major North American sport associations and by yourself.
Long term investment in online streaming, while partnering with Internet giants, at this point in time seems like the smartest move La Liga could have made in attempts to compete with Premier League’s financial strength.