As women’s football continues to grow so is the demand for more broadcasting slots on major TV networks despite the ever-strengthening position of streaming platforms. The Barclays FA WSL is now accessible globally through the FA Player and TV deals in selected territories. The NWSL is also available globally following a landmark deal with Twitch in 2020.
It can be argued, that the two leagues mentioned above are the most popular given their international nature, competitiveness and accessibility. However, elsewhere in Spain, the Liga Iberdrola aims to challenge these leagues and much of that is dependent on sorting its broadcasting rights issues.
According to Sportbusiness.com, Mediapro holds the domestic rights to broadcast the games of the majority of Liga Iberdrola clubs as negotiated by the clubs and the Spanish Football Association who runs the league. Only FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Athletic Club and Sevilla decided not to sell their rights to Mediapro and control the distribution on their own. These clubs sold 20 matches to the public broadcaster TVE.
With Real Madrid and FC Barcelona going head-to-head for the top of the table for the first time in the history of Spanish women’s football, this battle extends to the streaming space too.
The Streaming Gambit
In March last year, Real Madrid announced that it is launching a Twitch channel. Last December, the league home match vs Sevilla was the first to be broadcasted on Twitch. Ever since each home match is available to watch worldwide.
As a rule of thumb, all streams on Twitch are free to watch and do not require the viewer to even create an account. There are monetization options on the platform and Real Madrid offers a three-tiered subscription plan starting at $4.99 per month, $9.99 and $24.99. At the time of writing, the channel has 89k followers although subscriber data is not available.
Twitch rose to prominence from the eSports and gaming scene where a stream is accompanied by a host/presenter/streamer. This provides the fans with a different viewing experience than a traditional broadcast. For now, Real Madrid are not broadcasting in the Twitch way and are simply streaming footage from Real Madrid TV. Sure, there is a lot going on in the live stream chat however the host part is missing.
Over to you Barcelona
Three months later in June 2020, FC Barcelona announced Barca TV+, a streaming platform as part of the club’s new digital strategy. The platform is also the home of live FC Barcelona Women games.
If we compare the streaming strategies of both clubs, Real Madrid chose an external streaming platform whereas FC Barcelona controls and owns everything in house thanks to its partnership with Rakuten.
Barca TV+ allows FC Barcelona to monetize its fan base with three subscription plans as well. A quarterly subscription of €11.99, annual €34.99, and another annual with a Culers Premium Membership for €44.99.
Yesterday (31/01/2021) FC Barcelona played in the league at home vs Real Madrid, winning the match 4-1. In a tweet on the official FC Barcelona Femení account there are clear instructions for fans regarding how they can follow match.
As we can see, this highly anticipated match was available domestically on TV3 (Catalan channel), Teledeporte (the TVE deal mentioned earlier) and on Footers, a Spanish streaming platform. The rest of the world would have required a Barca TV+ subscription.
From an international women’s football perspective, Real Madrid’s choice of Twitch as their broadcast platform serves the purpose of growing the profile of the team worldwide without restrictions and paywalls.
On the flipside, FC Barcelona Women is more established in the women’s game. However, it doesn’t mean there are no plans to grow the team’s profile internationally. At the beginning of January this year FC Barcelona hosted RCD Espanyol (Catalan Derby).
This was the first derby to be played in the Camp Nou and to mark the historic occasion the match was accessible for all on Barca TV+. What if the recent match against Real Madrid would have been available via a single transaction for international fans who are not interested in a full subscription? This could have added more revenue and increase the viewing numbers.
A core area of FC Barcelona’s digital strategy is attracting global audiences. Not opening the match vs Real Madrid feels like a missed opportunity that contradicts the digital strategy.
In the current Liga Iberdrola broadcasting rights landscape, the streaming strategies of Real Madrid and FC Barcelona appear as the best possible solution for each. These two giants are expected to continue to take broadcasting revenue matters into their own hands unless the league can secure a lucrative enough domestic and international deal.
While FC Barcelona may have the edge on the pitch at the moment, we are far from seeing the last kick in the battle for attention.