“It's a reality. The Playstation, the digital platforms... they're what young people are consuming. They say the matches get too long. We have to change something if we want to keep football alive”
Florentino Pérez, Real Madrid President, 2021
These were the words, from the legendary – and infamous – Florentino Pérez when attempting to push through his European Super League reforms earlier in the year. One of the main motivations for Pérez in his ill-fated attempt to create the new competition was his growing belief that the main competitors for Real Madrid to capture new fans were not traditional on-field rivals like Sevilla or Valencia, but entertainment businesses such as Netflix and Disney. Pérez sees Real Madrid games as content to be consumed, and he therefore wanted more control in the sale of TV and OTT rights to all future matches, against who he considered to be more glamourous opponents. This belief in the intellectual property value of Madrid as a brand was shared by his fellow conspirators in the European Super League project, yet it is only one of them so far who have developed this idea of football clubs as a “brand” in an innovative way…
One year ago, in addition to their existing Barça TV channels showing more traditional content such as goals, interviews and previews, FC Barcelona launched their own Barça TV+ studios concept. The new idea sees the club produce far more than just on-field action, with cooking shows, documentaries and even a scripted feature film available to fans for a monthly subscription. This simple idea sees the club attempt to compete with other sources of attention for younger fans not by just playing more and more football (Barcelona were involved in the Super League idea of course, but that’s another story for another time…), but through becoming more of an entertainment brand. It remains to be seen whether some of the predictions about the future of football will come to pass, but it has been clear for some time now that supporting your favourite football club involves a lot more than just going to the stadium every other weekend.
The new Barça TV+ has also brought about some unexpected opportunities for those working in the industry. British freelancer Jamie Coles has been contracted by the studios to commentate on matches across a variety of sports, interview the coaching staff, simultaneously translate press conferences and even host “Camp Nou Kitchen”!
Jamie described his experience hosting the two episodes of the cooking show as:
“It was a dream come true for me! Since getting in to working on TV, I’ve always wanted to work on a cooking show – I just didn’t think that it would be FC Barcelona who would commission me to do it! The other big clubs are beginning to invest a lot in their media and video production, but what we’re doing at Barcelona really is a conscious effort to move away from the sport itself”
With innovation and being seen to be “first” increasingly important to football clubs in the digital age, the opportunities sure are there for FC Barcelona to take more and more viewing time from their new rivals. FC Barcelona 1 Netflix 0?
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IRIS’s Stuart Levy, in the press box at Camp Nou