There’s a TV war in our midst and it’s between La Liga and the Premier League as they both pursue the Asian market and try to become a leader on that continent. However, the war will have repercussions for football viewers around the world.
Up until now, the battle between the Premier League and La Liga has been very one-sided globally with the continued success of the English variety. But according to The Independent newspaper, La Liga is about to fire a shot across the Premier League’s bow by moving some of its games to earlier kick-off times so they’re in direct competition against the Premiership.
Saturday league games have traditionally kicked off in the evening (and sometimes very late evening) in Spain as opposed to the early-to-mid-afternoon times in England. But that may be about to change because of Asia.
For example, the Premier League kickoff times on Saturday afternoons are perfect for the Asian market. The 12:45pm UK game kicks off on television at 7:45pm in Hong Kong, while the 3pm UK matches are shown at 10pm Hong Kong time. These are ideal times for the Asian market, while the Saturday 5:30pm UK kickoff begins at the less convenient time of 12:30am Hong Kong time.
What La Liga officials state will happen this season is that some Spanish league matches will be moved earlier to a 3pm local time kickoff. This translates to a 9pm kickoff time in Hong Kong (and a 9am ET kickoff time for the eastern timezone of the United States).
It’s a smart move by La Liga because the 9pm Hong Kong kickoff time supersedes the 10pm Premier League kickoff time. Imagine if the Saturday, November 28th game between Barcelona and Real Madrid is played at 9pm Hong Kong time. It means that the focus of the continent (and the rest of the world) will be on el Clasico and far fewer people would care about the Premier League matches that day.
For viewers in the United States, imagine what would happen. ESPN could be faced with the choice of showing a 7:45am ET Premier League match or showing the 9am ET el Clasico instead. You can guess which one they’d show due to the massive TV ratings the Spanish match would generate.
Plus, there’s always a chance that La Liga clubs may decide to have some matches kick off even earlier than the 3pm local time start, which will make the times even more favorable for the Asian market and will give the Premier League’s 12:45pm UK time match competition. A few months ago Real Madrid’s president Florentino Perez had suggested playing the matches at midday in Spain in order to boost the audience potential to 1.8 billion people, according to CCTV.
All of this right now is conjecture because Spanish league officials still need to get approval from the clubs in La Liga as well as the television companies, but if the deal does go through, it’ll be interesting to see how the Premier League responds.
The stark reality for La Liga is that outside of el Clasico, the popularity and skill levels of the clubs is definitely lacking and has a long way to go before it rivals the Premier League. The production level of the Premier League on television is far superior to La Liga, but the opportunity exists for the Spanish league to make improvements and to chisel away at the Premier League’s market share. The Premier League is quite a formidable opponent, but it’s important for the English league not to rest on its laurels and to continue making sure that the quality of the football on display is the best in the world.