La Liga teams up with Microsoft to lift revenues as TV rights market cools

·2-min read

By Richard Martin and Clara-Laeila Laudette

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's La Liga is expanding its partnership with Microsoft as it looks to boost revenue for its pandemic-hit soccer clubs and re-energise a fanbase that is consuming ever more digital products.

The Spanish league, which announced its closer ties with Microsoft on Wednesday, sees the fast-growing world of sports technology as a way of offsetting a cooling television rights market and helping clubs develop on and off the pitch.

"We want to launch a new company... to generate revenue so we are able to redistribute and have better clubs, better stadiums and better players," Oscar Mayo, La Liga's head of business and international development, told Reuters.

Mayo said LaLiga Tech, as the business is styled, was valued at over 450 million euros ($550 million), noting it would generate a significant chunk of the league's overall revenue in the future.

"Media rights aren't going to grow as they used to in the next 10 years," Mayo added.

Microsoft executive vice president Jean-Philippe Courtois said his company hoped to help the sports industry digitalise.

"Because of the pandemic most consumers have turned to more digital content," Courtois said. "Leagues cannot be dependent on TV and digital rights... It's not easy to sustain."

SEEKING CASH

La Liga and Microsoft's enhanced partnership will focus on three main areas -- fans, rights holders and commercial partners, plus venue managers, with a view to selling on some of the technology to other leagues.

It is developing personalised OTT (over the top) streaming options to allow fans to choose the camera angle they wish to watch games from, as well as offering augmented reality, virtual reality and 3-D replays.

It is also targeting venue managers, helping stadiums install 5G telecoms, deploy COVID-19 safety measures.

One key way of capitalising on new technology is through products such as Mediacoach, a statistics platform used by Spanish clubs which is being exported to other leagues.

Although La Liga last week agreed an eight-year deal with US broadcaster ESPN worth around $1.2 billion, the overall picture in European soccer is gloomy, with stadiums shut for over a year due to the pandemic and fans switching to at-home streaming services.

A thirst for new revenue spurred last month's doomed attempt - led by Real Madrid and backed by Barcelona - to launch a European Super League.

La Liga has vehemently opposed the Super League, with president Javier Tebas saying it would destroy domestic leagues and the very clubs proposing it.

Tebas sees technology as a major growth area.

"We are moving into a new era in which technology will become the center of the fan experience and data insights will power the next stage of global growth," he said in La Liga's statement.

($1 = 0.8188 euros)

(Reporting by Richard Martin and Clara-Laeila Laudette; Editing by Keith Weir)