The ESPN+ acquisition of LaLiga rights is major news in terms of soccer viewership in the United States.
The Walt Disney Company today confirmed that ESPN has acquired the U.S. rights to Spain’s LaLiga through 2028-29 in a comprehensive long-term media deal that positions ESPN+ as the number one dedicated sports streaming service.
Select matches will air across ESPN networks each season, with coverage and highlights also available on SportsCenter and other ESPN studio programs, as well as on ESPN digital and social platforms.
“We’ve signed a historic rights agreement with the top division in Spanish club football,” said The Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek. “It is one of the world’s best and most popular soccer leagues, including a number of the top clubs in the world and one of the best players in the world. And this eight-year deal covering both English and Spanish language rights brings 380 matches and a host of [Segunda Division] matches beginning in August. This deal bolsters ESPN plus’s position as a top destination for soccer in the US, offering fans more than 2,900 matches per season.”
With ESPN’s acquisition of the exclusive U.S. broadcast rights to LaLiga in both English- and Spanish-languages, the self-proclaimed worldwide leader in sports is well positioned to get as much mileage out of the league as possible. LaLiga is arguably one of the best technical leagues in the world. But beyond the glitz and glamor of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid is the opportunity for ESPN to bring this league to new audiences, and thereby increase the number of subscriptions to ESPN+ which is their ultimate aim.
Don’t be surprised if you see LaLiga games promoted during this summer’s coverage of the European Championships during June and July, which will be an ideal lead-in to the 2021/22 LaLiga season beginning in August. Don’t be surprised to see el Clásico, arguably still the biggest club match in world football, on the over-the-air ABC Network. Could we see promotions of Messi on Disney+ to encourage those subscribers to add ESPN+? Will Hulu continue to find innovative ways to integrate ESPN+ into its app to make LaLiga even more front and center? The possibilities for Disney and ESPN to promote the league are practically endless, and we’re not even scratching the surface yet.
READ MORE: Where to watch LaLiga on U.S. TV.
Combined with the well run and very attractive to watch Bundesliga, ESPN has two of the cornerstones of European club soccer. While ESPN has picked up a plethora of rights in the last two years from Scotland, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark and many other countries, the acquisition of Spain’s LaLiga rights is a major coup for the broadcaster particularly because the league and beIN SPORTS were locked into an exclusive rights deal through 2024. Thankfully for ESPN and LaLiga, the duo were able to negotiate a way for the rights to return “home” to ESPN.
LaLiga isn’t new to ESPN. In the past, the broadcaster has had rights to the league in different territories around the world for ESPN International. Plus, select LaLiga games were televised on ESPN from the 2009/10 season when GolTV had sublicensed select games to ESPN. Those mid-afternoon games were often shown on ESPN2 featuring commentator Derek Rae along with co-commentators Tommy Smyth and Robbie Mustoe.
The eight-year LaLiga rights agreement adds to the industry-leading lineup of soccer on ESPN+, which currently includes Spain’s Copa Del Rey, the German Bundesliga, MLS, England’s FA Cup, EFL and Carabao Cup, Dutch Eredivisie, Scottish Premiership, UEFA National Team Football, USL, and much more. In total, ESPN+ offers fans more than 2,900 matches per season (more than 1,000 in both English and Spanish).
“This agreement will bring the excitement, passion, iconic clubs and global superstars of LaLiga to U.S. sports fans with unprecedented access and coverage,” said Burke Magnus, Executive Vice President, Programming & Original Content, ESPN. “As the sport of soccer continues its ascendance in the U.S. market, we are incredibly excited to work with LaLiga to establish a deeper connection to American fans through our company’s industry-leading streaming platforms, television networks, and digital and social media assets.”
“We are absolutely thrilled to bring LaLiga to ESPN in the U.S.,” said Javier Tebas, President, LaLiga. “This is an historic eight-season agreement in U.S. soccer broadcasting that speaks to the power of LaLiga and its clubs in the largest media market in the world and will bring the world’s best soccer league to American screens in a more comprehensive and modern way than ever before.”
Added Russell Wolff, Executive Vice President and GM, ESPN+: “This agreement creates a true home for LaLiga in the U.S. for years to come and cements ESPN+ as the premier platform for soccer. We’re excited to showcase the brilliance of LaLiga in our English and Spanish coverage for the growing legion of soccer fans and ESPN+ subscribers.”
Said Boris Gartner, CEO North America, LaLiga: “Partnering with ESPN will allow us to have unique LaLiga programming across ESPN+ and ESPN’s network and digital platforms, super-serving existing fans and introducing new consumers to the drama and passion of LaLiga. The league, clubs, and players will be as close to the American fans as they’ve ever been at a time where soccer is growing leaps and bounds in the U.S.”
The deal also includes rights for Canada. TSN and RDS, Canada’s leading sports networks, will deliver comprehensive coverage of LaLiga matches, highlights, and news to Canadian viewers through multiple platforms, including live streaming on TSN.ca, RDS.ca, and the TSN and RDS apps.
Highlights of the long-term agreement include:
• 380 LaLiga Santander matches per season, featuring all 20 teams in first division soccer in Spain, including performances by top teams FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Sevilla FC, and others;
• Select matches from LaLiga SmartBank, showcasing Spain’s Segunda División;
• Five promotion playoff matches each season;
• LaLiga Show and LaLiga World – two weekly, in-season magazine programs.
• LaLiga Show previews key LaLiga matchups each match week;
• LaLiga World features highlights, interviews, and classic moments from the previous weekend’s action;
• LaLiga Season Preview and Review – two separate one-hour pre-and post-season programs each year,
• El Clásico specials– one-hour programs that showcase the most famous derby in global soccer ahead of the home-and-away regular season FC Barcelona vs. Real Madrid matches;
• LaLiga Highlights Show, recapping each week’s games; special programs about first division soccer in Spain; a weekly LaLiga SmartBank highlights and magazine show; and more.
• Select programming from LaLigaTV – the English-language network devoted to 24/7 coverage of the league;
• Classic LaLiga Matches – Access to some of the league’s most recent storied matches.
Beginning Saturday, May 15, a curated collection of LaLiga programming will debut on ESPN+. Highlights include an ESPN FC LaLiga special; episodes of LaLiga Center spotlighting the best goals, the best U.S. players in league history, and more; LaLiga Top Moments; the three-part Galacticos documentary about Real Madrid in the early 2000s; and United States of LaLiga, a showcase of unique stories about LaLiga fans across North America.
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