When Leagues Compete

The English Premier League is the most watched soccer league worldwide.  Manchester United is the biggest team in the world, and though Barcelona and Real Madrid might be 2nd and 3rd, the other big teams in the English Premier league (Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, and now Manchester City and Tottenham) are more popular than any in the Spanish league.

The Spanish league has made an interesting attempt to combat the EPL’s popularity in Asia in particular by doing something daring: moving its games to start times of 12 PM.  This is interesting because Spain famously has a late-night culture, and placing a game so close to the AM could dampen the attendance and enthusiasm of the fans in the stadium.  But the early Asian TV market results appear to positive:

While this early kick off may have been a problem for viewers and fans in North America for whom it would have been early morning, it was the perfect setting for fans in countries like Indonesia, China and Japan who otherwise are accustomed to setting alarms for ungodly hours in the middle of the night to see their favourite teams and stars in action.

If numbers after the Real Madrid game are any indication, then the early kickoff proved to be a huge success in the Asian countries. China’s CCTV5 reports 120 million viewers watched the game live on Television in China, while a further 100 million saw it online on zhibo8.com. Spanish news agency EFE quotes Beijing alone accounting for 60 million viewers as per Beijing TV.

Add to this the fact that Real Madrid is rapidly expanding its presence in emerging market countries like Cameroon and India by starting foundations which simultaneously foster the local soccer culture, do charitable works, and promote their brand, and the league may be able to grow its overseas popularity.  Real Madrid’s planned holiday resort in the United Emirates sounds to me like a bridge too far, but it shows the expansiveness of their thinking when it comes to seeing their team as a global phenomenon.



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