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ESPN+ faces language barrier trying to reach LaLiga’s fans


ESPN+ is a must-have for many soccer fans in the United States. ESPN’s acquisition of the U.S. rights to LaLiga was built on the development of streaming services for sports coverage.

Not only does the service stream matches in English, but they also air every LaLiga game in Spanish. The decision to stream in both languages was frankly essential for the company and viewers.

Prior to LaLiga’s agreement with ESPN, beIN SPORTS held the television rights for the Spanish league in the United States.

During the last five seasons, beIN SPORTS en Español pulled nearly three times the amount of viewers than their English-language beIN SPORTS channel for LaLiga matches. ESPN, clearly aware of these numbers, made the wise decision to stream LaLiga games in both English and Spanish.

With the prominence of Spanish-language broadcasts, ESPN gave the language special attention. ESPN+ General Manager Russell Wolff spoke on the platform’s growth in both languages.

“We’ve seen steady subscriber growth overall on ESPN+ and have seen the Hispanic fan base grow as well,” claimed Wolff in early 2020. “Digital usage is up as well across the board, including on ESPN Deportes.”

Additionally, Wolff mentioned the doors opened through the service’s multiple-language broadcasts. The boost in eyes watching the service means a consequential boost in possible advertisers.

“More content should equal more usage, which should also lead to more attention from advertisers,” Wolff said.

“With Spanish-language broadcasts, we have more opportunities to offer partners the chance to speak directly to Spanish language subscribers, which is a desirable audience that is hard to reach.”

ESPN+ Spanish-language experience

Undeniably, it is a positive to have the Spanish-language broadcasts through ESPN+. However, the user experience for Spanish-speakers is disappointing to say the least.

READ MORE: How to watch LaLiga on U.S. TV.

Yes, LaLiga matches and other viewing content can be streamed in Spanish. But, the actual navigation and commands in the app are in English no matter what subscribers watch.

ESPN+ does offer a sign-up process in Spanish, but after you register for the app itself, it’s an all-English language experience.

A major factor for ESPN acquiring LaLiga rights in the U.S. was clearly to attract Spanish-language speakers. However, it appears as if ESPN could be doing more to help their target audience inside the actual app. It remains to be seen if the company currently has plans to make the necessary adjustments.

Yes, ESPN+ this week added a new section to the app entitled ESPN+ MÁS that focuses on Spanish-language content, but it isn’t enough. All of the navigation on the ESPN+ app is still in English.

Lionel Messi’s departure from Barcelona to Ligue Un surely disappointed ESPN. Although the Spanish league will still remain one of the top divisions in European soccer, Messi’s departure certainly put a dent in ESPN’s projected subscriber growth.

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  1. Victor

    September 16, 2021 at 10:42 pm

    Agree with Dan.
    as well they can make the spanish soccer shows more attractive instead of 4 faces in the screen.
    As well we deserve to see longest shows in spanish with reports/highlights of premier, scudetto and ligue 1.

  2. Dan

    September 16, 2021 at 8:17 pm

    There is also something odd with the Spanish audio feed. The environment sound comes out really low volume and the commentators sound way higher. Also the commentators come out slightly muffled, like they are commentating the game from their kitchen counter using their laptop built-in mic. It’s a turnoff.
    On the other hand, the English audio feed comes really clean and well blended with the roar of the crowd.

  3. Karl

    September 16, 2021 at 5:30 pm

    “Yes, LaLiga matches and other viewing content can be streamed in Spanish. But, the actual navigation and commands in the app are in English no matter what subscribers watch.”

    Have you gone into settings and switched edition to “US- ESPN Deportes?” It changes the language as well as the default language settings of broadcasts.

    • Christopher Harris

      September 16, 2021 at 5:47 pm

      I wasn’t aware that option was available. But now that I see it, when I click on it, all it does is to take me to the ESPN Deportes section of the ESPN website. It doesn’t change the language to Spanish when I go back to ESPN+ (i.e. it’s still in English).

  4. locofooty

    September 16, 2021 at 3:23 pm

    Nice to see they created that section. Promotion of ESPN+ was slow to reach ESPN Deportes and spanish speaking customers overall. I think only the last season of Serie A did they really go all out on spanish commentary. La Liga is a bigger prize. Language, cultural and historical viewing for La Liga from lat am only helps ESPN+ attract spanish lang fans. That’s why if (big IF) ESPN gets EPL rights, no way it gets split between languages. ESPN+ is in it for the long term.

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