'Departure of Messi, Ronaldo has not had adverse impact on La Liga viewership', says league's India MD Jose Cachaza
Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi may have left their respective La Liga clubs but its viewership figures have increased as steadily as ever since they have left, says the league's India head.
La Liga may have seen two of the biggest names in world football, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, leave the league but that has not affected the viewership of the league itself. In fact, La Liga India Managing Director Jose Cachaza says that players coming and leaving clubs is a reality that those running the league have to accept as it is the clubs themselves that are the only non-variable factor in the game.
"No," was his unequivocal answer when asked if the departure of the two superstars has had an adverse impact on the viewership figures in the country. "Our viewership numbers have kept increasing. Our following in social media has been increasing and so has our sponsorships. That is the nature of the game, players don't last forever, clubs do," Cachaza told HindustanTimes.com.
The Spaniard says that having big-name players playing in the country is something that the league always wants but it is not too concerned if, say, Real Madrid fail to sign Kylian Mbappe or Erling Haaland. Conversely, the fact remains that Real, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid continue to possess box office players amidst their ranks.
"Of course we would like to have the best players. We would like to have Haaland and Mbappe in La Liga. Maybe one day, they will come. But for example, we have two of the best strikers in the world playing for Real Madrid (Karim Benzema) and Barcelona (Robert Lewandowski). We have some of the most promising youngsters playing for Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico like Vinicius, Ansu Fati, Rodrygo, Joao Felix and so on," he said.
The fact also remains that while the two Spanish giants have had their troughs in recent years, particularly Barcelona with their financial debacle, they remain two of the most difficult sides to beat in Spain and Europe. "Let us not forget, Cristiano left but Real Madrid won the Champions League again. Barca suffered a lot but they have made a strong start to the season."
Cachaza also said that the league was happy with Viacom18 acquiring the digital rights for the Indian Premier League (IPL), a development he feels will draw more eyeballs to its OTT platform Voot and thus to the league itself. La Liga is being aired this season on Viacom18's channel Sports18 as well.
"We are in the second year of our relationship with our broadcaster Viacom18. Last year we were on MTV only and this year we are growing with them on their new channel Sports18 and the OTT booklet. We want to keep increasing our commercial footprint in the country.
"Product-wise this season could be a little more competitive than the last so that will be good for the fans and increasing the audience. We cannot forget that the cricket asset Viacom18 has just got and at the end of the day, that will be good for us because the general audience of the channel will be bigger so our audience will be bigger too."
La Liga had uniquely tried out streaming matches exclusive on Facebook in India before it became one of many sports organisations to move out as part of the social media giant's gradual shift away from the field.
"Facebook was a pretty good experience. It helped us learn a lot about our audience because there is a lot of instant data that we are getting from Facebook. It helped us reach new fans. Now we are in a different situation, where we are in a channel and in an OTT platform. Facebook decided not to continue with live sports of any kind. If they had continued with that strategy, then we would have never said no to them," said Cachaza.