LaLiga, the second major European soccer league to resume play amid the coronavirus pandemic, saw international viewership grow by more than 48% on its first matchday of the league’s restart.
Spain’s top domestic league resumed action on June 11 with El Gran Derbi between Sevilla FC and Real Betis. Matches during Matchday 28 (June 11-14) registered growth across the world including a 210% increase in South Africa, according to Nielsen Sports. Viewership saw a 73% increase in Africa, while Asian nations, including India, where the league is broadcast on Facebook, saw an increase of 72%.
Not only did the league see an uptick in TV viewership across a sports-starved globe, but fans in Europe were also thrilled to have the league back. Across Europe there was a 56% increase—130% in Belgium and 46% in Denmark were of particular note—including a 12% uptick in Spain.
“At LaLiga we feel privileged to be able to take to the field again, and we’re very happy to have the opportunity to offer live sports entertainment at a time when there are few events like this around the world. We hope that other competitions in other regions will also start soon, because it’s important for the fans and the industry,” LaLiga president Javier Tebas said in a release. “We’re grateful to all of the fans who’ve followed LaLiga now at the restart, because we’ve all worked hard to offer them entertainment again.”
LaLiga, which followed the Bundesliga (May 16) in returning without fans because of the pandemic, also thrived in North America, whose five major leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and MLS) are either in the offseason, announced tentative restart dates or are still determining the best course of action for a return.
The first weekend of LaLiga matches reached a total of 1.6 million unduplicated viewers on beIN Sports and beIN Sports en Español networks across the United States and Canada.
The broadcaster’s LaLiga Marquee match between FC Barcelona and RCD Mallorca earned an aggregated total audience of 316,000 unduplicated viewers across both networks, ranking as the fourth most-watched cable sports program of the day among all English language and Spanish language cable sports networks. Real Madrid’s return against Eibar reached a combined total audience of 251,000.
“For (beIN Sports), having LaLiga back is having life back,” LaLiga North America CEO Boris Gartner said.
LaLiga sought to take advantage of its restart, particularly in North America, while other major European leagues were still waiting to resume; the Premier League returned June 17 and Serie A is back June 20.
The Bundesliga, which was the first league to return after being suspended due to COVID-19, drew record viewership across its first matchday as well, especially in Germany and the United States. Sky Deutschland had figures of 5 million across linear and on-demand channels, while Borussia Dortmund’s 4-0 win against Schalke on May 16 hit a record high with a .33 in the United States, the best metered market rating ever for a Bundesliga telecast on Fox Sports 1.
With four of the five major European leagues restarted—Ligue 1 in France was cancelled for the season on April 28—Gartner is pleased to see more eyes on the sport.
“We don’t see it as a competition that if Premier League games are on, people are going to watch less LaLiga,” he said. “I think it becomes a virtuous cycle and hopefully this brings in new fans that aren’t necessarily following soccer. It worked out when we did the charity FIFA tournament with Uninterrupted and NFL and NBA athletes. We hope this is similar—that people who might not necessarily be interested in watching soccer before can get into it.
“Hopefully it gives a disproportionate attention to soccer in general.”