La Liga deepens ties with Microsoft to lift revenue

Spain’s La Liga is expanding its partnership with Microsoft as it looks to boost revenue for its pandemic-hit football clubs.

The La Liga-Microsoft tie reknot is also aimed at re-energising 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.

Microsoft executive vice president Jean-Philippe Courtois said his company hoped to help the sports industry to digitise and to make money from its data insights for the fans.

La Liga and Microsoft’s enhanced partnership will commercialise existing services by focusing on three main areas – fans, rights holders and commercial partners, plus venue managers, with a view to selling some of the technology on 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 and deploy COVID-19 safety measures.

Another product LaLiga Tech hopes to export more widely is Mediacoach, a statistics platform whose algorithms analyse data about players’ performance and which is used by Spanish clubs.

It will also commercialise other existing services such as its anti-piracy software which has clamped down on illegal streams of matches.

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.