What: La Liga’s deal to play regular-season games in the US and Canada is a huge risk for the league.
Why it matters: La Liga’s gamble to export to domestic league matches won’t do much to grow soccer in America.

Growing Soccer in America

In August, Relevent Sports and La Liga announced their plans to have regular season La Liga games played overseas in the United States and Canada. The move has been made in an attempt to raise the awareness of La Liga soccer and grow the sport in America. However, is this enough reason to bring Spanish domestic league soccer games across the Atlantic? Soccer is already one of the fastest growing sports in America. The number of boys and girls participating in high school has been on a steady rise since 2009 (https://bit.ly/2PCVDcj). The average attendance for MLS games currently stands at around 22,000, which is more than the NBA and NHL average attendances (https://bit.ly/2NgJgVL). The US, Canada and Mexico have just won a joint bid to host World Cup 2026 (@united2026) and Relevent’s ICC preseason tournament continues to set record numbers despite clubs rarely fielding star players on the tour. So does La Liga really need to have its games take place in North America to grow the sport?

Breaking Down La Liga’s Attempt to Reach North America

Speaking to the COO of Collegiate Sports Management Group and an adjunct professor with Columbia University’s Sports Management Program, Ray Katz (@realraykatz) believes that this is the kind of deal that could hurt the league. In his opinion, player relations could suffer greatly from staging games across North American. Additionally, he points out that there are better ways for Spain’s top-tier soccer league to reach new audiences. “If La Liga want to get their product out there, then the key is availability globally from a media perspective. Make the league available to people on any screen, and ideally free or as part of existing a solid OTT or cable subscriptions.”

At the moment, La Liga games are shown on Bein Sports Network, a network that has recently been dropped by one of America’s top cable providers, Comcast. To Katz’s point on availability, a lesson is there to be learned from NBC Sports. In 2013, NBC Sports captured the rights to show the English Premier League (EPL), perhaps Europe’s most popular soccer league. The network made all games available, free of charge, provided viewers had a cable subscription. It wasn’t until last year the network put up a paywall for games not televised on cable. But by then, NBC Sports’ brilliant coverage had made hundreds, possibly thousands, of Americans into fans of one team or another in the EPL. More importantly, it made fans out of people willing to pay to see their team play if they weren’t being televised on one of the network’s major channels.

Make the league available to people on any screen…

If NBC Sports had made a pay streaming service for games at the outset of their deal with the EPL, there is serious doubt as to whether the EPL would be as prominent as it is in the US. In contrasts to La Liga, it’s current spot on a TV network, not readily available to most is extremely damaging to the product in America. On this issue, Katz said, “…La Liga needs to centralize their TV strategy and negotiations instead of having individual teams make these deals. The NFL did this in the 1960’s and it yielded epic results.”

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It’s clear from this deal, La Liga wants to do what the National Football League (NFL) has done with their sport. The NFL has exported regular season games to Europe and Mexico for some time now and it has been met with huge success. However, Katz points out La Liga won’t experience that same success with this new venture. “There isn’t any other high-level American football played outside of the U.S so NFL games abroad, serve essentially as an “ambassador” for the sport itself. For La Liga, every country has their own reasonably strong soccer league so La Liga soccer won’t necessarily attract that many new fans unless there are games with Barcelona or Real Madrid.”

Barcelona FC and Real Madrid CF have a massive global following already and don’t need to hold games across the Atlantic to increase their presence. Ticket pricing has already been earmarked as a possible problem. Last year’s ICC tournament featured the first “El Clasico” to be played outside of Spain, when Barça and Real met in Miami. Tickets to that match started at a whopping $300. This figure would get you into all home games alone at most Spanish clubs. But this is what ticket prices will look like if Americans want to watch regular season La Liga games in their own backyard. On the issue of ticket pricing Katz explained “…the only people who will pay the exorbitant ticket prices, are people who are fans of La Liga already.

You have to find a well thought out, balance between generating revenue and selling tickets. It can’t be one or the other.

A Mountain To Climb

The deal lacks support from the La Liga Players Association (LLPA), who are willing to strike in an effort to keep La Liga games in Spain. Many are not surprised by this stance, given the number of matches and cup competitions soccer players are involved in. One game could make all the difference in a season. La Liga will also have steep competition with established American sports, given the NFL, NHL, and NBA could all be in full force when it seeks to stage its games.

LLPA President, David Aganzo, speaks to the press after La Liga’s Captain emergency meeting.

Additionally, the deal has to be approved by FIFA, UEFA, CONCACF, The United States Soccer Federation (USSF), the Spanish FA, Spain’s National Sports Council and its foreign ministry. FIFA will have the final say on the matter, but precedent doesn’t favor the deal either. The governing body’s former president Sepp Blatter condemned the EPL’s previous proposals to play matches overseas as “unacceptable” and an “abuse of football.” Despite all of this, La Liga recently announced that Barcelona against Girona will be the first game to be played overseas, with the Miami Dolphins Hard Rock Stadium the destination.


What: David Villa’s production company Designated Player and Telemundo Deportes will create content during FIFA World Cup.
Why it matters: In what can develop into a Spanish “Players’ Tribune,” leveraging World Cup content can be a big boost for DP.

Designated Player (@DsignatedPlayer), the production company of Spain and New York City FC soccer star David Villa (@Guaje7Villa), is partnering with Spanish-language U.S. broadcaster Telemundo Deportes (@TelemundoSports) to create content during the upcoming FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCupin Russia.

Villa, 36, will narrate a video series called Como Llegaron (“how they got there”), which will look back at the qualifying campaigns of Spain, Portugal and the eight Latin American countries competing at the international soccer tournament.

We’re committed to providing fans with the best and most authentic content around the World Cup, and those efforts are only enhanced by partnering with such an accomplished player like Villa.

In addition, the NYCFC star will conduct a series of in-depth interviews with players participating at the competition, including his former club and international teammate Andres Iniesta, France star Antoine Griezmann, and Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

The content will be published across all of Telemundo’s platforms, including social media. The NBC-owned firm has rights to the World Cup until 2026, and also has a deal for this year’s tournament in place with soccer media company Copa90.

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“We’re committed to providing fans with the best and most authentic content around the World Cup, and those efforts are only enhanced by partnering with such an accomplished player like Villa,” said Ray Warren, president of Telemundo Deportes said this week.

Villa has won both the World Cup and UEFA European Championship with Spain. He has also won La Liga (@LaLigaEN), Spanish soccer’s top flight, three times, and has three Copa del Rey winners medals. He is now a key member of NYCFC’s rise in Major League Soccer.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia/Jan S0L0

What:  Facebook has signed contracts with nearly 140 media companies and celebrities to create video for Facebook Live. Sports teams and players, particularly soccer, are among the highest paid.
Why it matters: Streaming rights  for top sports and soccer properties are among the most coveted by Facebook and other social media companies like Twitter. Broadcast advertising dollars are starting to siphon over to online video advertising and the trends is likely to accelerate.

PkyX6ctOf the roughly US$50 million Facebook has agreed to invest, athletes, sports teams and sports media companies are set to collect about US$4.4 million in payments, according to a document reviewed by the Wall Street Journal. Soccer, in particular, figures prominently on Facebook’s list of contracts, demonstrating the company’s ambitions to give Facebook Live a global appeal. However, in the United States soccer, particularly for the Hispanic population, soccer has a very high appeal.

The highest-paid sports company, FC Barcelona, will receive approcimately US$1.03 million from May through March of next year, making the Spanish soccer team the 18th highest-paid on Facebook’s list of media companies, athletes and celebrities.

Barcelona’s rival, Real Madrid, is to receive about US$917,000 to produce live video. Arsenal Broadband Ltd., which operates Arsenal’s media and digital rights, has a contract for about US$349,000. Manchester City, another English soccer team, is to receive US$221,000.

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Barcelona drew in more than 500,000 views for a live video press conference with new player André Gomes and about 340,000 views for a recent training session.

Individual soccer players are receiving payments, too. Spanish goalkeeper Iker Casillas is set to collect about US$211,000, while American star Alex Morgan is slated to bring in about US$115,000. Ricardo Kaká, a Brazilian player with Major League Soccer’s Orlando City SC, is set to receive about US$49,000.

Facebook has signed contracts with nearly 140 media companies and celebrities to create video for Facebook Live, The Wall Street Journal reported last month. It’s a game plan meant to ensure Facebook remains fully-stocked with quality live-streamed videos as the company decides how to compensate creators through more traditional means, like an agreement to share advertising revenue.

CHECK OUT: How Much Do Mexican Soccer Clubs Get Paid for U.S. Broadcasting Rights?

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This year’s GSMA Mobile World Conference is over, but what awaits to be seen is how this year’s trends are implemented in the industry. Attendee Pedro Forwe, director of Argentina-based programmatic advertising firm KickAds, reported back to Portada about the highlights from this year’s event, and the mobile ad industry’s biggest challenges in 2016.

Record Attendance

One of the most impressive aspects of this year’s MWC was its size, as attendance surpassed 100,000 (from 204 countries) for the first time ever. Over 2,200 companies from industries like finance, healthcare and automobiles convened in the Fira Gran Via and Fira Montjuic event venues in what GSMA Ltd CEO was John Hoffman said “incorporated a diverse range of events, spanning multiple sectors and interests, reflecting the expanding role of mobile around the world.”

Pedro Forwe, director, KickAds
Pedro Forwe, director, KickAds

Exhibitors were mobile operators, software companies, equipment providers and internet companies, and the event featured keynote events delivered by big players like AT&T, BuzzFeed, Cisco, Ericsson, ESL, Facebook, Ford Motor Company, GE Digital and Getty Images.

But to Forwe, “the biggest highlights were clearly the new Samsung Galaxy model, the S7, and LG’s LG 5, which stole everyone’s attention at the event.” These two new smartphones are the most talked-about Android models of the year, with the former offering liquid cooling, wireless charging and water resistance and the latter offering a removable battery, an impressive modular accessories system and a Type-C USB port.

Ad Blocking on the Tip of Everyone’s Tongue

One of the hottest topics at the event was how to deliver content that gets past ad-blockers. “There were a few very interesting discussions about the topic, and about the most efficient way to put together advertising campaigns that are non-invasive and friendlier to the user,” says Forwe.
But it appears that there was no clear conclusion to this debate, as ad blockers and ad sellers continue to clash, and industry leaders are unable to agree on the best solution. It may not be as urgent as some thing, though, as mobile ad blocking penetration will still only reach 0.3% by this year, according to James Hilton, global CEO and founder at M&C Saatchi Mobile. The key will be changing advertising approaches so that users don’t feel the need to download ad blockers. Whether that’s possible is yet to be seen.

Virtual Reality Everywhere

When Mark Zuckerberg says something’s going to be big, you know people will start paying attention to it. And that’s exactly what happened with virtual reality, as a wave of companies dedicated to creating different kinds of mobile VR experiences has emerged in the past year or so.
But the path to profit in this industry has not been discovered yet. Fore claimed that he “observed a strong tendency with everything related to virtual reality…but the biggest problem will be monetizing it for developers.”

The Internet of Things Still Happening

Although sometimes it feels like we’ve been waiting for the IoT to really happen, Fowre confirmed that the the Internet of Things “is still growing very strongly,” and was a big standout at the MWC. The IoT section of the event proposed a world full of connected smart devices like smartphones, smartwatches and VR headsets developed by companies like Samsung, LG and Sony.
There is understandable pressure to innovate in this sector, as spending for IoT-inspired services like network deployment, operations management and data analytics is expected to hit $257 billion this year.
Fowre also noted that this year’s event featured many solutions for more efficient information management in the wake of the Big Data revolution. This was to be expected, as the Internet of Things generates such a high volume of Big Data that needs to be organized and analyzed if anyone is to make use of it.

Video Advertising: The Ideal Engagement Tool

To Fowre, the biggest highlight when it came to advertising was video. Mark Zuckerberg went so far as to claim that there is more engagement with videos on Facebook than it does on its YouTube channel. “Even the booth in Hall 8.1 directed all your attention and communication to Video. The most interesting thing, in this sense, was mobile video apps, which had strong growth in 2015,” Fowre said.
Fowre noted that other highlights included Latin America’s growth in “monetizing inventory in the region through innovative formats – mostly Video and Native Ads.”
There’s so much going on in mobile that it’s almost impossible to lump all of the area’s activity under one industry label. What’s certain is that mobile technology is now relevant to almost every aspect of our lives, and while some trends will come and go, the way we use our phones will dictate the direction of many industry sectors’ attempts at innovation.