LaLiga’s increasingly prominent role in supporting various sports in addition to Spanish football has accelerated thanks to its proactive adoption of over-the-top (OTT) technology as a vital vehicle for engaging audiences.
Having spearheaded the launch in 2016 of LaLigaSports, a project designed to drive growth across 64 national sports federations, the emergence of OTT has served as a catalyst, elevating LaLiga’s collaborative approach to new levels.
The launch of LaLigaSportsTV a year ago was a “natural evolution”, according to LaLiga’s strategic projects lead, Loreto Quintero.
“As an entertainment provider, we think it is important to develop first-hand experience of the latest technology and how it can enhance our offering in the future,” Quintero says.
“This is an approach that has already been taken by major American leagues, and platforms like Netflix show the global popularity of streaming services.
“It’s clear that the broadcasting world is transforming due to improved internet connectivity and the rise of streaming. With an OTT platform of our own, we are better prepared for new market circumstances.”
LaLiga started actively exploring OTT opportunities in 2017 and, in 2018, the organisation displayed its bold intentions by registering the Sportflix domain before it became LaLigaSportsTV.
Having shown more than 20 sports competitions at its launch, today LaLigaSportsTV provides free, live and-on demand access to over 30 sports competitions through multiple devices, with more than 600,000 downloads to date. It is now available globally through Android TV, but it can also be found as a mobile app through Google Play and the App Store and is also available on Samsung Smart TVs.
“We have been offering best practice to over 60 Spanish federations about how to create the best audiovisual spectacle and engage their audience, which helps them to grow,” Quintero says. “By making these competitions available around the world, we want to increase the visibility and exposure that they receive.”
Although rights deals dictate the availability of content in certain regions, some events – including the 2019 Pan American Games – received global coverage on the platform, and there is a desire to secure more worldwide agreements in the future.
In certain markets, the platform already provides access to international competitions such as the Superbike World Championship, European Weightlifting Championships, European Judo Championships and Canoe Sprint World Championships.
Spanish sports properties such as futsal’s Liga Nacional de Fútbol Sala, handball’s Liga ASOBAL, and the Liga LEB Oro, the second tier of the Spanish basketball league ladder, are also available. Other non-mainstream sports are also given a platform for exposure.
“The OTT platform is currently focused on sports that have not traditionally received widespread broadcast attention and we include live and catch-up content as well as highlights and stand-out moments,” Quintero adds. “We have seen that fans are keen to discover this content and by using this data we are offering personalised recommendations to them, carefully segmented by the preferences they are showing.
“We see loyal followings of many sports, particularly futsal, basketball and handball, but there are interesting trends throughout the platform. Sports like petanque and gymnastics, which last for many hours and have never received huge broadcast attention, have viewing times of over an hour.
“Increasing audiences and engagement comes from following our broadcasting best practice – having a consistent and engaging visual style is key for recognition. We have also consistently added new sports to the platform which help to engage new users. Added to this, we are beginning to work on programmatic advertising within LaLiga written content, which will identify fans’ specific preferences and offer them targeted, relevant updates related to LaLigaSportsTV.”
As LaLigaSportsTV is not being monetised yet, in terms of the business model supporting the platform’s development, LaLiga is working with the various sporting bodies that receive coverage to figure out a structure that works for all concerned.
“The platform is not yet being monetised, but as this develops, we will be working with the federations to agree a model that works for them,” Quintero says.
“We are not primarily focused on monetising the platform, but we expect to start seeing this in the coming seasons. Negotiations are ongoing here, but our most important focus is to create the best broadcast experience for viewers and sports federations, while studying the data to define the best future strategies.”
Rather than challenging traditional broadcast coverage, the idea behind establishing a direct-to-consumer platform is to embrace future technological opportunities and adapt to evolving viewer habits. As part of this, the ability to analyse data first-hand and tailor the user experience can put LaLiga at a competitive advantage.
“We saw that mobile technology was becoming central to the user experience and was defining company strategy,” Quintero adds. “Most importantly, capturing and understanding data was essential to the future of business.
“Through an OTT operation, we realised we would be able to offer users an experience that catered to their preference for on-demand, mobile-ready content, while providing a world of relevant data that can help us get closer to fans. Knowing which sports the user is watching, how long they watch for and from what device, is vital insight for rights holders.”
The data is also being used to optimise the OTT offering, with LaLiga working on improving the product, user experience and quality of content. User segmentation is crucial, with artificial intelligence helping to create a personalised experience for the viewer.
“The objective in the short to medium term is to learn and look for an exhibition window for many sports and try to make all sports realise the transition that is taking place in the world of sponsorship and advertising,” Quintero says. “We will continue to add new content too, such as iconic LaLiga Santander matches, which can now be found on the platform.
“Beyond that, our focus continues to be the study of data. Many people believe that the world of OTT is streaming… but it is much more. The key to the OTT is the knowledge of your user and how he consumes your product. Netflix has proven it. The example is the recommendation of films that it makes thanks to artificial intelligence. We have already learned a lot from that, which is informing our data-driven marketing.”
There has been plenty of speculation in recent years about if – or when – there will be a significant shift regarding major properties adopting an exclusive D2C model in their biggest markets. However, LaLiga is cautious to predict that such a broad transition is inevitable.
To that end, with the LaLigaSportsTV project led by LaLiga’s business intelligence and analytics team, as well as the president’s office, the primary goal at this stage is to enhance expertise in the area of OTT and broaden LaLiga’s data analysis initiatives.
“We are seeing many rights-holders taking steps toward creating their own OTT platform and we believe the market will demand more of this technology in the future,” Quintero says. “When that time comes, we will be ready with a platform that has several years of experience behind it.”
In keeping with the strategy to date, the development and expansion of LaLigaSportsTV will continue to be underpinned by a collaborative approach.
“Working with a wide range of sporting organisations is vital to the growth of our industry,” Quintero adds. “Our industry needs to come together to share best practice that will win the hearts and minds of future generations. We should never take for granted that sport will always be part of people’s everyday lives.
“When we launched LaLigaSportsTV one of our promotional messages was: ‘The more we see it, the bigger it will be.’ As we increase audiences to the wide range of sports on our platform, the federations behind them are getting stronger, understanding their audiences better and creating a more entertaining and immersive product.”