MUMBAI: As the new wave of acquiring rights is shifting from broadcast to OTT players and social media giants, La Liga is the most recent example which has been acquired by Facebook and sub-licensed to Sony Pictures Network (SPN) India. The Spanish premier football league has launched its football school focussing on grassroots programme in Delhi in the first week of October and then in Kerala recently. In Delhi, the school was inaugurated by former French international and Arsenal legend Robert Pires.
Apart from Kerala and Delhi, La Liga is planning to open centres in Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru and Kolkata.
Indiantelevision.com caught up with La Liga India MD Jose Cachaza to talk about the league’s expansion plans and the strategy behind partnering with social media giant Facebook.
He believes that they are little ahead of the curve from others because it is the way broadcast is going as major companies are getting strongly into sports and OTT is taking a lead role in various countries. Cachaza also believes that the exit of Cristiano Ronaldo has had no effect on the viewership and sponsorships of the league.
How do you plan to expand the popularity of La Liga in India?
This is an ongoing project that we started two years ago and we are working in different ways. There are two sides of our work; one that is quite central is our digital project for India. Digital is the most direct way of interacting with fans today, especially considering the penetration of digital communications in India. Two years ago, we had 300,000 followers on social media and today we have reached 3.3 million followers. Digital allows us to not only give information directly to our fans but also to get feedback from them. Our broadcast agreement with Facebook strengthens this strategy.
We cannot forget of course the relationship with fans so we do a number of activities involving the fans like the public viewings. We just announced the next big public viewing of the upcoming El Clasico in Kolkata on October 28. They have been successful in the past two years in New Delhi and Mumbai and now we are going to Kolkata, which is the modern heartland of football. We want to get there and bring the excitement of the El Clasico to the Bengali fans. Last year in New Delhi, we had 20,000 people showing up and we hope there will be more in Kolkata.
We are also now bringing to India our network of Football Schools. We are starting with 33 La Liga Football Schools in more than 10 cities and almost 4,000 kids training with us. This project is important to us because we are our philosophy of football, the Spanish way of understanding the game, head coaches who are La Liga trained and UEFA certified coaches. We decided to bring the joy of playing football to thousands of kids and we will leave a legacy of dozens of coaches trained with our methodology and philosophy of football.
We are bringing legends to India like Fernando Morientes, Luis Garcia, Christian Karembeu, Gaizka Mendieta, Robert Pires and Steve McManaman. We are doing many things and a lot more to come.
What is the rationale behind going with the social media giant? How satisfied are you with this deal?
We are highly satisfied and I think it was the right thing to do in this market. So maybe we are a little bit ahead of the curve from others because it is the way broadcast is going. It’s not something we invented with Facebook, major companies are getting strongly into sports and OTT is taking a lead role in various countries. The only thing we have done differently is that we are the first but we won’t be the only.
A recent report was that football in India is at the third position in terms of viewership and revenue, after cricket and kabaddi respectively…
No, that is not right. Audience wise, if you consider all the competitions, football is number two. If you see Indian statistics, Pro Kabaddi League has just a few thousand more viewers than ISL. However, if you consider everything like LaLiga, EPL, UEFA and all other leagues, football is clearly the second sport. In terms of revenue, if you take sponsorship, ticketing and broadcast deals from ISL to FIFA, you will once again find that football is the second sport in India.
Are you planning any content and distribution deals in India to offer more content apart from matches?
We are offering tens of hours of content to India, various shows and content that is already on Sony and now will be available to fans through Facebook.
With the new broadcast model, with TV and digital both, has the viewer engagement changed?
Maybe it has changed in the way they see it, but it is engagement at large. Indeed, our engagement with fans on social media is growing.
Telecom industry in India has seen a great spike after the entry of Reliance Jio. Data consumption got a boost but till now the country is not well-equipped to watch the full tournaments on smartphones. Don’t you think it is a big risk if the digital platform does not reach to a sub licensing agreement with the broadcaster?
It is a risk we are eager to take. Always when you are the first in anything, something that will be the trend, you are taking a risk. But, we are proud to do it.
After the rights are sold, what is the role of La Liga with the broadcast or streaming platform?
We have a really strong cooperative relationship with our broadcasters, anywhere in the world, not only here. It’s not just that they pay and they show the matches, there’s a lot of thing to do, activations, marketing opportunities and more to this that we work together with them. We are here to understand them and to help them to better promote their product because we also have it in our own interest. Our relationship is very close and intense; it was with Sony and now with Facebook.