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ESPN expected to announce LaLiga rights acquisition this week

ESPN is expected to announce later this week that it has acquired the English-language and Spanish-language media rights to Spain’s LaLiga, multiple sources have confirmed to World Soccer Talk.

Expectations are that an official announcement will be made on Thursday with confirmation that ESPN’s coverage of LaLiga will begin in August 2021, according to our sources.

World Soccer Talk reached out to both LaLiga and ESPN for comment. Spokespeople for both organizations declined to comment.

As first reported by World Soccer Talk in January, ESPN has been in talks to acquire LaLiga rights for the U.S. market for several months. beIN SPORTS had the exclusive rights in the United States through 2024 in a global deal between TV broadcaster and the league. However, carriage issues have plagued beIN SPORTS since 2019, and have prevented LaLiga from being a more popular league in the United States due to the limited distribution of its games.

While fans of LaLiga clubs have persevered with coverage of games on beIN SPORTS over the last two years, the Spanish top-flight league has found itself losing ground on more popular leagues in the United States such as the Premier League and Liga MX. At the same time, both Italy’s Serie A and Germany’s Bundesliga recently closed the gap with LaLiga by signing significant deals with media giants ViacomCBS and Disney/ESPN respectively to generate greater reach for both of those respective leagues. Serie A and Bundesliga will have some of the games featured on television. While the majority of the matches will be on streaming, both Paramount+ and ESPN+ are major players in the streaming landscape compared to the beIN SPORTS Connect streaming platform.

ESPN acquiring LaLiga games will be a massive boost for the Spanish league, especially for major clubs such as Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid who continue to expand their global fanbase.

World Soccer Talk also learned the following:

— ESPN has begun prepping talent for LaLiga for the start of the 2021/22 season, a source with knowledge of the situation revealed to World Soccer Talk

— LaLiga President Javier Tebas recently met with ESPN in the United States to discuss the rights deal, and

— A difference about ESPN’s strategy is that they are now focused on acquiring multi-year deals for soccer rights, according to a World Soccer Talk source.

Details about ESPN’s coverage plans for LaLiga are expected to be revealed in the coming days. Anticipation is that many of the games will be featured on ESPN+ as well as the main ESPN television networks and over-the-air ABC network.

In the streaming wars between the major media giants (Disney/ESPN+, NBCUniversal/Peacock, ViacomCBS/Paramount+), the race is on to try to acquire the rights to the available major soccer leagues and competitions. Both NBCUniversal and ViacomCBS have publicly shared how soccer has played a key role in generating many of the new signups to their streaming services. NBCUniversal’s CEO credited the Premier League as the number one driver of subscriptions and engagement to Peacock Premium before The Office moved to Peacock. And over at Paramount+, the Champions League has been the main driver of new subscribers outside of the NFL.

The timing of the expected acquisition of LaLiga rights is ideal for ESPN. Disney’s ESPN+ has been gobbling up soccer rights during the past two years including a long-term deal with Germany’s Bundesliga to stream every game. With ESPN+’s ambitious goal to double their number of subscribers by year end 2021, the streaming service has made soccer an integral part of its strategy to acquire new subscribers. What has been missing thus far has been more major soccer leagues. LaLiga, with heavyweights Barcelona and Real Madrid, is one. The other two are Liga MX (with rights currently held mostly by Univision/TUDN) and the Premier League (held by NBCUniversal).

The U.S. rights to the English Premier League will be coming up for bidding in the next few months. CBS Sports, ESPN and other broadcasters are expected to battle for the rights along with incumbent NBC Sports.

 

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40 Comments

40 Comments

  1. Hans

    May 13, 2021 at 3:19 pm

    I didn’t see here where anyone is complaining about paying for a subscription as I paid $50 for a year, it is the absolutely poor execution of their service that is the problem and complaint don’t read something here that doesn’t exist. Comcast is trying to force a cable subscription onto people that want to stay in the streaming world and that is not $5-$10 per month plus it forces one on to a different platform away from the mobile on to an 80s platform.

  2. Sam Riahi

    May 13, 2021 at 2:01 pm

    I dont know why people complain about subscriptions if you cant afford 5-10bucks a month. Then you need to be having a different conversation.

  3. Hans

    May 13, 2021 at 12:43 pm

    Nosferatu, I understand that preferences are different for users and there is a way to satisfy the vast majority of viewers it just seems that Peacock screws over the streaming viewers royally. This morning the Arsenal Chelsea game is available it was not available 9h after the start as they promised ALL games would be available on Peacock. Comcast got to get their act together and they are alienating their clientele by putting games on their cable package and not on the streaming service in a timely fashion. The other services do this and are far ahead from the Peacock service.
    There is no reason why this long waiting period before making it available. Game started at 15:00 EST time, by midnight it was still not available and I have no interest in having the game available on demand the next day. ESPN+ has it available on demand shortly after the match finishes. As I said before I am not paying for the service now but have full access, as they did a bait and switch and I got refunded. However if this does not change I will not renew Peacock as the only reason I watch it is for EPL and Rugby games. Both are available via other means.
    To quote Arsenal fans “We care do you (Comcast)” Since it is obvious they don’t by ticking off the streaming users, they will loose my subscription and I will pay someone else to get what I want. The Comcast suits should learn a lesson from the failed prohibition, if there are consumers willing to pay for services or products they want and Comcast doesn’t provide it you get it through other channels. Paramount+ all the way over screwy Peacock.

  4. Nosferatu

    May 13, 2021 at 6:06 am

    Hans, the game wasn’t on Peacock, so I imagine that’s why you couldn’t find the postgame show on there.

    It’s a mixed bag between the two services. You like that they cut out everything for the replays on Paramount+, but I prefer Peacock getting the replays up more quickly (I’d say it’s usually a difference of hours, which can be pretty significant). Plus sometimes on replays it can be nice to actually watch a few highlights or hear the talking points discussed, so I’d actually prefer they kept those parts in and got the replays up more quickly and let me be the one to decide if I want to watch the halftime show or not.

  5. Hans

    May 13, 2021 at 1:26 am

    Peacock sucks big-time, the navigation to find EPL stuff on their website is atrocious. Tried to find the Arsenal v. Chelsea post game show but to no avail. Just the highlights from the game compare that to the Paramount+ airing of the UCL & UEL games. Neatly separated in full game playback or pre-game or post-game show. Finally 9 hours after the game started still nothing on the website, NBC/Peacock are the worst when it comes to satisfying their streaming customers. The games that are played now are mostly on NBCSN and not on the streaming service, they sure make it easy to hate their service. So I likewise hope that Paramount+ will land the EPL games if not I have several IPTV services lined up that have ALL the sports channels in one place. Don’t get me wrong I got reimbursed for my years subscription to Peacock after the bait and switch debacle.

  6. Chris

    May 13, 2021 at 12:30 am

    This is great news. I look forward to some proper commentators, Phil and Ray are just awful.

  7. Daniel

    May 12, 2021 at 10:55 pm

    I’m curious to know how they got out of the BeIN deal. Did BeIN get bought out or were there conditions in the BeIN deal that BeIN didn’t meet?

  8. Daniel

    May 12, 2021 at 9:48 pm

    It will be meet the new boss same as the old boss.

  9. KL

    May 12, 2021 at 9:28 pm

    I hope EPL goes to either CBS or ESPN. However, due to this deal, I don’t think it’s realistic for EPL to go to ESPN. I hope it goes to CBS. With CBS viewers can watch all games for one fee (Paramount+) but CBS can still provide exposure on OTA CBS and CBSSN. NBC has exposure but games on NBC/ NBCSN aren’t available on Peacock and vice-versa. Also, NBC doesn’t have any other soccer rights to make Peacock a must have, I mainly watch Bundesliga and a casual Prem watcher. For now I’m fine watching games on just NBC/NBCSN but if I could watch all matches on Paramount+ I’d definitely watch more. It’s annoying when they put Liverpool vs. Manchester United on Peacock. Also, if the EPL left NBC, it would knock NBC out of the soccer rights conservation and make it a two horse race between Paramount+ and ESPN+ which I’d like since they are both relatively cheap.

  10. UnitedFan 3478

    May 12, 2021 at 4:36 pm

    Does this mean the EPL is coming to ESPN? I really hope it happens

  11. Karl

    May 12, 2021 at 3:54 pm

    Holy s**t, $175M/year for eight years?!? That seems pretty outrageous considering the Bundesliga deal on ESPN is $30M/year for six years, Serie A’s new CBS deal is $70M/year for three years, and the UEFA (CBS & Univision) deal is $140M/year. Gotta think this pushes EPL to at least $300M/year.

    https://www.sportsbusinessjournal.com/Daily/Issues/2021/05/12/Media/ESPN-LaLiga.aspx

  12. Michael

    May 12, 2021 at 12:09 pm

    @Christopher Harris. Does this deal include the La Liga TV Channel? I actually prefer watching the game and analysis with the UK Announcers and Update desk. Will we still need to have beIN Sports to access that? Or will that come to ESPN in August as well?

  13. Karl

    May 12, 2021 at 11:57 am

    I will never shed any tears for beIN or Qatar’s government.

  14. locofooty

    May 12, 2021 at 11:49 am

    They should’ve found a way to stay on the major carriers and avoid so many disruptions. Going the legal way against Comcast didn’t work and it seem like they just stayed content with the rulings. After that, you count your losses, you keep your exposure, and try to work it out.

  15. Mercator

    May 12, 2021 at 11:46 am

    La Liga is now on MULTICAST and I can cancel Fanatiz! Ideally, Bein would sublicense everything else (Ligue 1, SuperLig, Copa, Bikeracing etc) to ESPN as well and go back to being Al-Jazeera News.

  16. Michael

    May 12, 2021 at 11:35 am

    @JP. Don’t shed any tears for beIN Sports. They are one of the biggest World Wide Sports Channels in the World. Until the Oil dries up, they will still have money. Don’t be Surprised if they bid another league to replace La Liga.

  17. JP

    May 12, 2021 at 11:24 am

    @locofooty, not really fair to blame beIN for the carriage issues. Was just the fact they weren’t part of an entertainment conglomerate that could strong arm Comcast/DirectTV and others into taking their sports network as the part of price for getting their more popular channels too. CBSSN?? NBCSN even before it was announced they’re closing it down. Hours of useless programming surrounding by some soccer and hockey.

    Not that dissimilar to beIN who had hours of soccer and then lots of filler (replays of soccer, paid programming).

    I am sad this is likely the end for them, and at best some sort of GolTV purgatory.

  18. locofooty

    May 12, 2021 at 10:24 am

    Great news. EPIC fail by BeIN for always having issues with the major carriers. They’ll keep going down the GolTV route, but with more money to suprise us like when they got Copa Libertadores. They probably would’ve gone at it alone with the CONMEBOL WCQ knowing La Liga is leaving their channel. If Messi stays and Mbappe arrives in Mandril…clasico on ABC? lol

  19. Michael

    May 12, 2021 at 9:30 am

    @JP. Exactly! I forgot all about NHL. That makes it an even better value. My Blackhawks are not exactly world beaters anymore…but still support them.

  20. JP

    May 12, 2021 at 9:21 am

    @Michael, agreed this will be great if everything is available on ESPN+. Only reason I still have cable now is for my regional sports channel for NHL and beIN. ALl I watch is basically soccer and hockey these days with some NFL (which is OTA anyway).

    My contract is up in June so perfect timing on this info. With the NHL streaming package moving to ESPN+ (La Liga, NHL, Erededivise?) will only need that along with P+ (Serie A) and maybe HBO Max (NHL playoffs?). Looking into a VPN so will be able to avoid the local blackout rules and not need my local RSN.

    Could be about $35-$40 a month if including HBO Max and a VPN service instead of cable, $10-$15 of which would’ve been paying for on top of cable (ESPN+ and P+) regardless.

    Was already going this way, just saves $8-$10 from not needing Fanatiz or Sling to get beIN.

  21. Efrain

    May 12, 2021 at 9:02 am

    This is great news. Hated having to watch La Liga matches with poor picture quality on Sling World. Now I can drop that sub and watch ESPN+’s much better streaming quality. Hope Ray and Phil can move to ESPN too.

  22. Michael

    May 12, 2021 at 8:53 am

    This is great news. If this goes through, I will be able to save $65 a month by canceling my Fubo TV. I love the coverage and extra channels for TUDN…but if La Liga is on ESPN+….which makes perfect since, because it is much more profitable for ESPN, and much more convenient for me to watch…then I I can just watch the OTA Univision & Unimas for the UCL for free. Also, I don’t really follow the EPL, so I don’t need USA or NBCSN anymore. I can watch the one National Game on NBC every Saturday and get caught up on everything I need from there. I get MLB.TV for free because I am have T-mobile for mobile. That gives me every single MLB game except for Baltimore & Washington…but I can listen to those on the radio. 95% of the NFL games are on OTA TV, so I can just listen to the other 5% on radio. In addition because I have AT&T Gigabit Fiber I get HBO Max for free, and the rumor is that the NBA and MLB games from TNT & TBS will be offered there as well. I am not going to get my hopes up until I hear it official…but Chris has a great track record for being proven right. I am excited. That’s being said, it will not make up for the huge disappointment of Barça having the title in their own hands and proceed to drop 7 points in the last 3 games, but Messi or no Messi next year I will be forever faithful. #ForçaBarça

  23. Dan N.

    May 12, 2021 at 3:39 am

    It’s tough to see ESPN go for the Premier League now. Probably staves the pressure off NBC a little bit, but still have CBS/P+ to worry about. What are the odds that NBC would split the package with CBS/Paramount Plus?

  24. TH

    May 12, 2021 at 3:12 am

    Reads like BeIN will still show games globally and ESPN for USA. Win-Win! Now I can drop my $10 Sling Package that includes BeIN. ESPN+ free with Verizon wireless plan

  25. Chris Guardiano

    May 12, 2021 at 2:13 am

    @Bobby Moa the bidding for the EPL rights have begun and will likely be decided by the end of the year at the latest if not sooner. As it relates to Fox, they are not a player for the EPL because they are mainly focused on keeping the rights to MLS and the US National Team in preparation for the World Cup in 2026 on home soil which will likely be the final one they cover. That is if Paramount/CBS or ESPN don’t snatch the rights away from them before then. Besides if they weren’t focused on MLS and the US National Team and wanted the EPL, they likely couldn’t afford it because Fox Sports has gone through significant budget cuts in recent years which has forced them to lay off talent as well as be more mindful on which rights they want. When it comes to these cuts, soccer along with NASCAR have been most affected by them in terms of the loss of staff. The affects of these budget cuts have been made worse by the pandemic and the lack of live sports during the first part of last year. When it comes to who is involved in the EPL bidding in my view, it is Paramount/CBS, NBC & Turner/HBO Max. Lastly I don’t think ESPN is interested in getting the EPL now that they just got the La Liga rights this week to add to the rights they already have with the Bundesliga and Serie A (although Serie A is heading to Paramount/CBS next season).

  26. Eric T

    May 11, 2021 at 11:59 pm

    I think NBC will retain the rights to the EPL, but if Paramount or ESPN beat them to it…we’re talking about two major powers in soccer streaming and everyone else lagging behind by a mile.

  27. Bobby Moa

    May 11, 2021 at 10:58 pm

    Chris do you know when the bidding starts on the EPL., with NBCSN shutting down there will far fewer games on regular television. NBC has dropped the NHL and looks to be leaving NASCAR as well. Just hope Fox doesn’t get a hold of the EPL.

  28. nickp91

    May 11, 2021 at 10:57 pm

    This would be huge! It’s always so hard to catch La Liga games

  29. Karl

    May 11, 2021 at 10:42 pm

    I hope ESPN invests more in their soccer studio coverage. ESPN FC often has the feel of a local PBS program.

  30. dstorm

    May 11, 2021 at 10:24 pm

    Interesting – wasn’t aware of that – hope you are correct!

    I also hope ESPN can figure out how to add better and more consistent shoulder programming to the German and Spanish leagues.
    Paramount leads the way here, from live studio shows to the fact you can quickly and easily find review shows, etc. on the app. I noticed with Serie A ESPN+ would often miss weeks of posting highlight shows, etc.
    While ESPN has the name brand and reach, it’s nice to have other networks dedicating more time to analysis, pre/post game shows, highlights, etc. Paramount has nailed that aspect, TUDN has as well. NBC was the first to nail it (in English language) with the Premier League. ESPN lags behind in this area so I hope they step up their game for fans of La Liga. RIP Bein Sports, enjoyed your coverage for many years.

  31. Chris Guardiano

    May 11, 2021 at 10:11 pm

    @dstorm they likely will given the fact that both Ray and Phil previously worked at ESPN during the early years of MLS and helped ESPN help MLS grow. Also Ray and Phil have worked together since the days that La Liga was on GolTV and moved over to Bein when they got the rights back in 2012. It would be unwise for ESPN to split the duo in my view. As for the other talent on Bein that is used for their La Liga coverage like Andres Cordero & Kaylyn Kyle, they likely won’t be following the league over to ESPN and in some cases (especially with Kaylyn Kyle) may be leaving Bein for other networks like CBS.

  32. dstorm

    May 11, 2021 at 9:42 pm

    So I’m likely in the minority, but I actually really enjoy watching La Liga on Fanatiz – their app is solid, streaming quality is good and the price is reasonable. I’m guessing La Liga will get a modest bump in popularity from having a few OTA games on the ESPN networks, but unlikely to move the broader needle.

    We’ve never had better access to South American soccer so hopefully this doesn’t negatively impact the other soccer tournaments on Fanatiz.

    The only way I’ll endorse this deal is if ESPN brings along Ray Hudson and Phil Schoen for the ride. That would be absolutely majisterial if they could make that happen.

  33. Don Dickerson

    May 11, 2021 at 9:21 pm

    Daniel there are many more teams than just Barcelona. After next season who even knows if Barcelona will be top 4 with the Real Madrid’s and Atletico Madrid’s of the League not to mention Sevilla and even Villareal for that matter come next season. If Messi is gone who is gonna be the player everyone wants to watch week after week?

  34. Mccort912

    May 11, 2021 at 8:26 pm

    beIN isn’t on the largest satellite provider, the largest cable company, isn’t on YouTube TV, Hulu and I am probably missin some big ones so no we can’t all watch.

  35. Daniel

    May 11, 2021 at 8:23 pm

    I’m not paying to watch Barcelona play. I’m sorry, this is getting really annoying now. I get beIN was bad and doesn’t help the league, but at least we can all watch. I hate the route football is going with streaming man.

  36. Don Dickerson

    May 11, 2021 at 7:42 pm

    So happy that this will basically kill off Fanatiz. I do feel sorry for the smaller clubs/Leagues that are on Gol Tv and other minor channels that Fanatiz has.

  37. Anthony

    May 11, 2021 at 7:33 pm

    Makes sense. Bein isn’t viable and ESPN needs the content to replace Serie A. I see ESPN or Paramount swallowing up Ligue 1. I also see NBC retaining Premier League (or at least a big piece of it).

  38. JP

    May 11, 2021 at 7:17 pm

    Wow! Hopefully even the matches they decide to show on ESPN/ESPN2 will still be on ESPN+ like they’ve done for Bundesliga.

    Sad for beIN but the writing was on the wall. Loved their coverage, but now no reason to subscribe anymore. Copa Libertadores is ok but not a must, same with Ligue 1.

    Do you see Paramount+ making a play for Libertadores to pair with their coverage of the Argentinian and Brazilian leagues?

  39. José Cerrato

    May 11, 2021 at 7:10 pm

    Pues ojalá ESPN logre adquirir los derechos de LaLiga. 📺

  40. Nando

    May 11, 2021 at 7:02 pm

    So, what’s going to happen for BeIN sports? are they still going to broadcast the games through 2024 or there going to “sub license exclusive games” as the old times “GOL TV & ESPN”!??

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