Soccer-La Liga returns to traditional TV in India as Facebook deal ends

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La Liga Santander - Real Madrid v FC Barcelona

By Sudipto Ganguly

MUMBAI (Reuters) - La Liga will return to more traditional mediums to showcase Spanish soccer's top flight in the Indian subcontinent, three years after it linked up with Facebook to broadcast matches free of charge on the social network.

The league will be broadcast in the subcontinent on Viacom18 network's youth television channel MTV and some national and regional channels. La Liga matches will also be live-streamed on Voot and Jio platforms as part of the three-year deal.

"I am exactly as much excited as I was three years ago when we announced our agreement with Facebook," Jose Antonio Cachaza, the managing director of La Liga India, told Reuters in an interview.

"It's quite an interesting time for media evolution and it's part of La Liga's strategy to explore new ways and India is becoming kind of forefront of this.

"First it was our experience with Facebook that gave us a lot of learnings and it was also a different way to interact with the fans. And now we are sort of coming back to more traditional TV but in a totally different way."

Games were available on Facebook's streaming platform for three seasons from 2018 and the reason for not renewing the deal was because the networking site was no longer interested in investing in live sports rights, Cachaza said.

He said the deal gave them a chance to understand how fans consumed live sports in the world's second-most populous country.

"Learning is always positive. It's usually we learn more from the bad experiences than for the good experience. What we do wrong is where we need to improve," Cachaza said in a zoom call from Spain.

"I will never say that our experience with Facebook was a bad experience, it was a totally different experience. It is true that a small proportion of our fans never understood not having the matches accessible through the traditional channels."

"But if we had to do it again, we'll do it again."

Soccer jostles with other sports for a share of the space left after cricket in India, which has a population of 1.3 billion, and Cachaza was confident that La Liga had potential to grow.

"It's just a matter of being in the market, work well with the market, talk to the fans, understand the fans and the revenue will end up coming," he added.

"The room for growth of sport business in India in terms of revenue is there, most likely we'll keep growing."

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Ed Osmond)

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