In an opinion piece on Sportico, Facebook’s director of sports league and media partnerships Rob Shaw has revealed that the social media giant will not pursue the renewal of its free-to-air broadcast deal for La Liga in India. The same goes for Facebook’s UEFA Champions League telecast in Latin America. Both contracts are due to expire this year.
Shaw wrote, “We didn’t bid to extend our UEFA Champions League and La Liga agreements in Latin America and India, respectively. We still have excellent partnerships with these leagues, but the reality is that traditional media rights deal like these aren’t compatible with our current video business model. We also don’t think they’ll create the most sustainable value for the industry moving forward.”
Signed in 2018, Facebook’s three-year deal with La Liga ensured free broadcast of all league matches in the Indian subcontinent. Meanwhile, the deal with Champions League ensured Latin America covered 32 live matches from the competition from each season during 2018-2021. These two partnerships were supposed to be Facebook’s big entry in live sports streaming, but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore.
Although La Liga saw a massive increase in viewership in India since the league restarted in June 2020, Facebook is adamant about not renewing the contract. Earlier this year, La Liga floated the tender for media rights in the Indian subcontinent and many expected Facebook to bag the contract again given its spectacular viewership in India. However, Shaw’s revelation has denied any such possibilities.
Nevertheless, Facebook’s decision to not renew its free-to-air deals is not entirely surprising, Facebook’s director of global sports partnerships, Peter Hutton hinted in 2019 that the social media platform will not make any significant bids for premium sports coverage. He said, “Our position changes as the platform changes, but I am certainly not expecting any huge investments in sports rights in the near future. I know that people always talk about the big (technology) giants coming and that life is changing. Who knows? Maybe one day, but certainly not today.”
The new bidding process for Lal Liga rights will likely see Sony Pictures Network come back in the mix. Sony has been showing La Liga for multiple seasons before Facebook came into the fray. The likes of Discovery plus, Amazon, and Star Network might also turn out to be contenders for this deal.