La Liga’s increasing popularity in India | Business Upturn

La Liga’s increasing popularity in India

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With an estimated three and a half billion fans, football is undoubtedly the most popular sport on Earth. It is unique in that it has multiple leagues around the globe that generate massive interest, with the ones from European countries gluing by far the most eyeballs to screens. According to Bleacher Report and most footie experts, the English Premiership currently reigns supreme over the football world, something it has done for years. The Spanish La Liga, which has long had a reputation for being a two-club competition, has been facing declining interest in the past decade due to the dominance displayed by its two juggernauts, Real Madrid and Barcelona. Their intense rivalry has made other Spanish league matches unappealing.

However, with Atletico Madrid now in the mix, more people are curious about what is going on in Spain’s footballing ecosphere, and viewership numbers are rising.

In India, more people are looking at La Liga standings than Indian Super League ones. That is so because Indian players cannot rival their European counterparts, quality-wise, plus La Liga matches boast a decent average of 2.5 goals per game. They feature top-end talent from all corners of the globe. Despite this competition losing its top two stars in the last few years, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, its global expansion is still driving forward at a steady pace. It is vital to note that European Football moves in tides. In the late 1990s and the early 2000s, La Liga was all the rage, with teams like Valencia, Deportivo La Coruna, Sevilla, and Real Betis also being at the top of the Old Continent’s club competitions.  Those in charge of running Spain’s top football league are doing an excellent job pushing La Liga’s reach in new territories and swelling interest in it in already established ones.

Just How Popular is La Liga in India?

La Liga’s management knows that India is an enormous market that has not yet reached its potential. With a population of close to 1.4 billion, everyone looks at it as a country waiting to get conquered. The same goes for La Liga, which boasts a worldwide audience of 2.7 billion fans and hopes to expand this figure by growing in Asia. In India, it ranks as the second-most-watch national sports competition behind the English Premier League. However, in 2020, figures released by Nielsen Sports showed that its popularity increased a whopping 72%.

More interesting is that La Liga has more Facebook followers from India than any other country. Before 2018, it had not been a part of the Indian sporting consciousness. Yet, a streaming deal with Facebook changed all that. The social media network attained the sports rights of several national leagues for multiple Southeast Asian countries. La Liga tried to take advantage of this momentum by signing Rohit Sharma as its brand ambassador in India and striking a five-year partnership with fantasy game provider Dream11. They also unveiled a grassroots program called LaLiga Football Schools. They are doing this to see if they can generate the same level of interest in their clubs, as seen by Espanyol’s import Wu Lei in China. Lei’s success in La Liga draws millions of Chinese fans to tune in to Espanyol matches. Thus, La Liga hopes to find similar-level talent from India that will comparably captivate this nation. Last year, the cumulative viewership of LaLiga Facebook streams was in the four to five million range.

MTV Buys Broadcast Rights to La Liga

In September 2021, news broke that La Liga’s broadcast rights changed hands for the fourth time, with Viacom 18 acquiring them. Viacom 18 is an Indian media corporation that represents a joint venture between ViacomCBS and TV17. It owns various TV channels and streaming platforms. Its deal with La Liga entails that this competition’s matches will get broadcasted on TV screens on the Indian sub-continent via MTV, and they will also air on streaming options Jio and Voot. Viacom 18 aims to quickly exponentially grow La Liga’s audience in India by appealing to younger demographics without alienating its core fan base. Stats show that interest in the league is highest in South India, with Kerala leading the charge. They also state that 38% of viewers are from rural India.

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