Facebook will be the only platform to watch LaLiga live in the next three seasons in the Indian subcontinent.
On Friday 17 August, when the new season LaLiga Santander (Spain’s top tier football league) kicks off, viewers in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka will have to visit LaLiga’s official page or the pages of clubs on Facebook to watch the matches. All 380 matches will be shown on the social network only.
If Twitter starting live broadcasting NFL matches back in 2016 made the headlines for being the first, it would be the absence of social networks in covering high profile sport events that would raise some eyebrows, which hardly happens at all nowadays.
It isn’t even the first time that Facebook tied similar exclusive deals. In July it beat Beln Sports and Fox Sports Asia in a £200 million three-year deal to live stream the English Premier League in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. But that won’t happen until the 2019-20 season. So this new deal with LaLiga, though by no means ground-breaking, when LaLiga claimed the deal “a first-of-a-kind agreement” it is technically correct.
Despite Facebook telling Reuters “it’s not something that is a big threat to broadcast world”, the broadcasters, especially the cable networks will see it nothing but. It looks the trinity of breaking news, high quality entertainment, and live sports, that has traditionally been drawing viewers to the premium cable networks, are crumbling one by one.
Digital channels, in particular social networks, are becoming more and more important in news reporting and dissemination. According to the latest Pew Research findings, 93 percent of Americans get their news from digital channels, with Facebook alone serving nearly half of them.
On-demand streaming services like Netflix and Amazon, with their investment in original content dwarfing the budget of any conventional TV networks, are encouraging more cords being cut. A watershed moment was reached in the UK in July, when the combined subscribers of the three leading on-demand streaming services Netflix, Amazon, and Sky’s Now TV, overtook the total number of cable TV subscribers for the first time, according to Ofcom.
Prime sports have been the last strong asset to hold the ground for the cable operators, which is being eroded by deals like the current one. Amazon will show 20 Premier League matches in the UK from the 2019 season, breaking the duopoly of Sky and BT Sport. What’s more worrying for the Fox Sports and co in the recent Facebook deals is that the cable networks are completely shut out of the markets. They may justly feel worried.
When it comes to the consumers watching LaLiga in the subcontinent, there is good news and there is bad news. The matches will be shown for free and, at least at the beginning, will be free of ads too. Viewers can also choose to use Facebook on different devices.
However, if there is one thing that TV beats internet it is the reliability of signal. With 4G coverage far from nationwide in any of these countries, broadband connection becomes critical. On the latest worldwide broadband speed league table, the highest ranked subcontinent country is Sri Lanka at 81st position, with an average download speed of 5.84 Mbps. The lowest ranked among these eight countries is Afghanistan at 1.15 Mbps. Viewers could be left frustrated with the picture stopping when a striker is just about to pull the trigger.