If you’re an American soccer fan who doesn’t have access to Univision Deportes or struggles to enjoy games without English announcers, we have some good news. Univision Deportes is about to start streaming Liga MX games for free on Facebook Live, and they’ll have commentary in English.
Liga MX is the most popular soccer league in the United States, and it’s been available on TV in most American households for decades. They clearly don’t need to attract a large audience of people who primarily speak English to be successful in the U.S. — the May 2016 Liguilla playoff match between rivals Club América and Chivas de Guadalajara drew 2.7 million viewers, making it the most-watched club soccer match ever on cable. Even during normal weeks without massive rivalry or playoff games, Liga MX usually does better ratings than the Premier League.
Univision has also been ahead of the curve on digital distribution before this deal with Facebook. Their Univision Deportes en vivo platform has been working great for years, and their networks are available through services like Fubo and Sling.
Still, people who are only interested in watching games with English commentary represent a massive growth opportunity for the league, and it makes sense to target those soccer fans — especially if Liga MX and Univision don’t have to change anything for their existing core audience.
Univision’s chief commercial officer Tonia O’Connor talked to Bloomberg about exactly that. “There has never been an option for us to have a dedicated English language viewing experience,” she said. “Facebook represents that for us.”
While the potential to attract new fans is huge for some teams, others will miss out. América, Chivas, Chiapas, Cruz Azul, León, Monterrey, Puebla, Querétaro, Santos Laguna, Toluca, UANL Tigres, and UNAM Pumas are the clubs that have deals with Univision to broadcast home matches in the United States. Pachuca is with Telemundo, while Atlas, Morelia, Tijuana, and Veracruz are on Azteca.
Chivas is on Univision this season and will be included in the deal, but they have plans to start their own over-the-top network, Chivas TV. If this initial deal with Facebook is highly successful and renewed for next season, it could be a big blow to Chivas’ plans.
Streaming starts on Saturday and will include 46 games, including Liguilla playoff matches. It’s unfortunate that Univision and Facebook couldn’t get this deal worked out until Week 7 of the current season, but there’s a reason they had to get it done this week: Chivas and América play at 10 p.m. ET on Saturday in the Súper Clásico, the biggest rivalry game in the country.
That matchup could give the network an early indicator of the current ceiling for their audience, and if the game is good enough, it could entice some curious fans who aren’t regular Liga MX viewers to come back for more.
If you’ve never checked out Liga MX and the prospect of watching games for free and in English has you interested, I highly recommend giving it a shot. Most games are high-tempo and dramatic, tricks are celebrated, and some teams use tactical styles that are uncommon in MLS and the Premier League. It’s interesting for soccer nerds while being an excellent entertainment product at the same time.
Games will show up on Univision Deportes’ Facebook page, as well as on Facebook’s live video tab.