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Luke Thompson May 13, 2021 4 min read
ESPN Is Rumored to Confirm the Purchase of LaLiga Rights This Week
Multiple sources have reported to World Soccer Talk that ESPN is expected to announce today that it has secured the English-language and Spanish-language broadcast rights to Spain’s LaLiga.
In August 2021, ESPN Will Begin Broadcasting LaLiga
An official announcement is expected today, along with confirmation that ESPN’s coverage of LaLiga will begin in August 2021.
LaLiga and ESPN were contacted for comment by World Soccer Talk. Both organizations’ spokespeople refused to comment.
ESPN has been in talks to obtain LaLiga rights for the US market for several months, as first confirmed by World Soccer Talk in January. In a global contract between the TV broadcaster and the league, beIN SPORTS has exclusive rights in the United States until 2024.
However, beIN SPORTS has faced serious carriage issues since 2019, preventing LaLiga from becoming a more successful league in the United States due to its restricted distribution.
While the LaLiga clubs have endeavored over the past two years to cover their games in beIN SPORTS, in more famous leagues in the United States like the Premier League and Liga MX, the Spanish top-flight league has lost ground.
Important agreements were signed with the media companies ViacomCBS and Disney/ESPN in order to have a greater scope for each of those respective leagues. The Italian Series A and Germany’s Bundesliga have both narrowed the gap with LaLiga recently.
The acquisition of LaLiga games by ESPN will be a huge boost for the Spanish league, especially for major clubs like Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Atletico Madrid, which are continuing to grow their international fan bases.
The following was also discovered by World Soccer Talk and reported by the publication on Monday:
- A source familiar with the situation told World Soccer Talk that ESPN has begun preparing talent for LaLiga for the start of the 2021/22 season.
- In the United States, LaLiga President Javier Tebas met with ESPN to negotiate the rights contract, and
- According to a World Soccer Talk source, one difference in ESPN’s approach is that they are now focusing on winning multi-year deals for soccer rights.
ESPN’s preparations for LaLiga coverage are set to be announced in the coming days.
Many of the games are expected to be broadcast on ESPN+, as well as the major ESPN television networks and the over-the-air ABC network.
The Major Media Corporations Are Engaged in a Streaming Battle
The quest to win the rights to the accessible major soccer leagues and tournaments is on in the streaming wars between the major media companies (Disney/ESPN+, NBCUniversal/Peacock, ViacomCBS/Paramount+).
Both NBCUniversal and ViacomCBS have stated publicly that soccer has played a significant role in attracting new subscribers to their streaming services.
Before The Office switched to Peacock, NBCUniversal credited the Premier League as the number one driver of subscriptions and interaction with Peacock Premium.
Outside of the NFL, the Champions League has been the biggest driver of new subscribers at Paramount+. The planned acquisition of LaLiga rights comes at a perfect time for ESPN.
During the last two years, Disney’s ESPN+ has been snatching up soccer rights, including a long-term agreement with Germany’s Bundesliga to broadcast every game.
In March of 2020 in terms of promotional campaigns and programs to preserve the dignity of the games, Australian bookmaker PointsBet gained exposure to the growing audience of the LaLiga football product in North America through its US subsidiary, PointsBet US.
ESPN+ has made soccer an important part of its plan to acquire new customers, with the subscription service aiming to increase its user base by the end of 2021.
More big soccer leagues have been lacking up to this stage. One is LaLiga, which includes heavyweights Barcelona and Real Madrid. Liga MX (whose rights are currently largely owned by Univision/TUDN) and the Premier League are the other two (held by NBCUniversal).
In the coming months, the United States’ rights to the English Premier League will be put up for auction.
Along with incumbent NBC Sports, CBS Sports, ESPN, and other broadcasters are anticipated to compete for the rights.