LaLiga looks to globalise second division with live YouTube streaming
By Simon Ward
LaLiga, the top Spanish soccer league, is giving a new international platform to its second-tier Segunda División having reached an agreement with YouTube to provide free-to-view live streaming of matches for the remainder of the 2018-19 season.
Starting tomorrow, the Google-owned platform is to show all 11 matches per round on the LaLiga 123 YouTube channel in more than 155 countries where media rights deals are not already in place. No rights fee is involved.
All commentary will be in English, and there will geo-blocking to ensure that the games cannot be viewed in Spain and selected other markets.
The live YouTube coverage will be complemented by a weekly 50-minute highlights programme already made available to LaLiga's international broadcasters.
The offering is available in territories across Europe, Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Oceania, but not Latin America (where rights to the second division are held by DirecTV and ESPN), nor USA and Canada (both BeIN Sports), China (DDMC) nor eastern Europe's Balkan region (Sportklub).
The YouTube tie-up is intended to offer greater global exposure for the Segunda División, known for sponsorship reasons as LaLiga 1|2|3, which presently includes several prominent former top-flight clubs in Deportivo La Coruña, Málaga, Mallorca and Sporting Gijón.
The English commentary will make the service particularly popular in the UK where there was live coverage last season of one match per round on FreeSports, the free-to-air sister channel of UK pay-TV broadcaster Premier Sports.
Live UK rights to the top-tier LaLiga are presently held by Eleven Sports, the international subscription broadcaster, but there are doubts over the future of its service in the country as the failure to reach carriage agreements with cable and satellite operators means that it has been restricted to streaming, and unable to meet subscription targets.
Eleven is no longer selling annual passes in the UK and Ireland as it continues to consider its long-term future in those markets.
This is not the first time that Spanish soccer has turned to YouTube to reach a wider audience for live matches, with LaLiga and its agency partner Mediapro having offered pay-per-view coverage of the Copa del Rey, the national cup competition, on the platform as long ago as the 2015-16 season.
The main LaLiga YouTube channel, which features highlights of top-flight matches and a variety of other content, now has more than 3.5 million subscribers worldwide.
The league has also embraced other social media platforms, as demonstrated by the three-year deal worth €20 million ($23 million) it now has with Facebook to stream live top-tier matches in the Indian subcontinent.
Melcior Soler, director of the LaLiga Audiovisual department, said of the new YouTube agreement: "The way we consume live sports is being changed by a new generation of online broadcasters, and we are committed to using such channels to extend the appeal of our competitions. This move will strengthen the LaLiga 1|2|3 by bringing it to an entirely new global audience, in a format that we think will really appeal to the viewer."
LaLiga is eager to expand the audience and increase revenues of the Segunda División, which does not enjoy the level of international exposure of England’s second-tier Championship let alone the Spanish top flight.
Within Spain, 10 matches in each round can presently be viewed on the LaLiga 1|2|3 TV channel available on subscription platforms including Movistar Plus, Orange, Telecable, beIN Connect and Sky, while two are shown by Gol, the Mediapro-owned digital terrestrial TV channel.
However, the domestic media rights landscape is changing for the 2019-20 season with Telefónica, the telecoms giant that owns Movistar Plus, having recently acquired exclusive rights to all 11 matches each week, on top of nine of the 10 top-tier LaLiga games, in three-year deals, and sub-licensing arrangements have yet to be thrashed out.