Facebook streams could strengthen Liga MX's lead in U.S. market
Liga MX fans in the United States were hit with a bombshell on Monday: Univision announced that Facebook Live will host 46 Liga MX matches in English in 2017.
At time of writing, there are no details regarding the schedule of matches for the live streams, but the project will kickoff this Saturday with a highly-anticipated viewing of Chivas versus America. Streams will only be available to Facebook users in the United States.
The recent move by Univision and Facebook is not one to be taken lightly. The opportunity for growth is immense in the United States, even though the league is already dominating the airwaves.
Although it’s tough to predict how successful this project will be --- or will be measured -- the deal is one that could prove to be highly influential for not only fans, but also Mexican futbol.
The most popular league in the U.S.
When it comes to ratings and attention, Liga MX is king. No other soccer league, including MLS and the EPL, garners more viewership in the United States than the Mexican first division. Some have even said Liga MX should be considered as a part of the “big five” in North American sports.
To give an idea of this popularity, let’s take a look at a playoff series last May between Chivas and America. In the first leg of the quarterfinal clash, 1.4 million viewers tuned into the game on Univision Deportes, making it the most-watched soccer match in the history of U.S. cable.
The second leg, which was broadcast on Univision’s primary channel, brought in a total 2.7 million viewers. Granted, a Chivas-America battle --- also known as the Clasico Nacional --- is the most popular rivalry game in Mexico, but let’s take a look at last season’s final between Tigres and America.
On Christmas Day in 2016, the second leg of the Apertura final brought in an astounding 3.3 million viewers. That number is twice the amount that MLS drew for last year’s final between Toronto and Seattle.
It’s clear that viewership and attention is already massive for Liga MX in the United States, so why should Univision and Facebook take a chance with English commentary? The answer: Growth with traditional fans and capturing a new market.
Expanding Liga MX’s fanbase
There are a couple of key reasons why the Facebook and Univision partnership is set to be beneficial.
First and foremost is the fact that Latinos in the United States are continuing to embrace English. Although many are bilingual and speak Spanish, it is evident that there is an increasing trend towards English, especially for U.S.-born Latinos.
In order to adapt to this, Univision has done an excellent job of providing an opportunity to watch Liga MX soccer in English on Facebook Live. It’s a smart move from the organization, and one that will help strengthen ties with Latino fans who primarily speak English and/or have a difficult time understanding Spanish.
Another factor to consider is the language barrier that will be knocked down for many who have never considered the league. Whether it be an MLS or EPL supporter, or a casual sports fan, providing a chance to hear the game in English opens the door to numerous potential supporters in the country.
If this new strategy provides a significant amount of viewership and recognition for Liga MX clubs, which it appears it will, the league itself might have to reassess its current methods.
Changing Liga MX and El Tri
Now is the time for the league to capitalize on English-language content.
At the moment, only two first division clubs regularly provide English-language coverage and news: Club Tijuana and Santos Laguna.
With the Univision and Facebook deal now in motion, other teams might be forced to rethink their approach for fans north of the border. Although certain clubs aren’t worried about their current financial state, there is an immense amount of money and recognition that could be earned.
The same could be said for the league, which sees itself as one of the best in the world, but also doesn’t provide access in English. Changes will have to be made, and the influence of the Univision and Facebook project might force Liga MX and its clubs to keep up. This means English-language social media accounts, websites, highlights and staff.
In turn, this could also mean the same for El Tri, which is arguably the most popular soccer team in the United States. The national team has experimented with the occasional Tweet or Instagram post in English, but the organization has yet to truly commit to regular posts.
But that could all change.
Univision’s Liga MX project with Facebook is a big step in the right direction for all involved. There’s an opportunity to boost impressive viewership numbers, appeal to a changing Latino demographic, bring in new supporters and also force Mexican soccer as a whole to reconsider its current game-plan.
For Liga MX, this could also eventually mean a much wider fan base outside of North America, which would then truly propel the league as one of the best in the world.