FIFA Launches Free Ad-Supported Soccer Streaming Platform ‘FIFA+’

FIFA, the international governing body of soccer, April 12 announced the launch of FIFA+, an ad-supported digital app that pledges this year to stream more than 40,000 men’s and women’s highlights and classic matches, in addition to documentaries.

The app, available on Google Play and Apple App Store, offers 1,400 matches live-streamed monthly. Ad sponsors include Coca-Cola, Hyundai, Kia, Qatar Airways, Adidas, among others.

FIFA+ will provide access to live soccer match clips from every corner of the world, interactive games, news and tournament information. FIFA, which is running the quadrennial FIFA World Cup in Qatar in November, claims to be the first sports federation in the world to offer such an extensive streaming experience to its fans for free.

“FIFA+ represents the next step in our vision to make [soccer] truly global and inclusive, and it underpins FIFA’s core mission of expanding and developing [the sport] globally,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said in a statement. “This project represents a cultural shift in the way different types of [soccer] fans want to connect with and explore the global game and has been a fundamental part of my Vision 2020-2023. It will accelerate the democratization of [soccer] and we are delighted to share it with fans.”

Special programs include:

  • Ronaldinho: The Happiest Man in the World — A feature-length documentary offering extensive access to and never-seen-before archive of one of the most iconic players to have played the game. The 90-minute film directed by Stuart and Andrew Douglas, produced by Bernie Goldmann and by Simon Horsman and Jeffrey Soros of Los Angeles Media Fund, tells the unique story of the player’s life, charting his rise from the streets of Brazil to becoming one of football’s most loved players. Lionel Messi, Frank Rijkaard and Carles Puyol all feature and reveal what this FIFA Legend means to them.
  • Captains: Season 1 — An eight-part series from Fulwell 73 (Sunderland ‘Til I Die, All or Nothing: Juventus) following six soccer team captains as they lead their countries through qualification for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. The series, which will explore each individual’s leadership traits, features Luka Modrić (Croatia), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon), Brian Kaltak (Vanuatu), Andre Blake (Jamaica), Hassan Maatouk (Lebanon) and Thiago Silva (Brazil).
  • Croatia: Defining a Nation — This original feature-length documentary tells the story of how football unites and binds this nation and a group of friends who reached global recognition against the backdrop of the most extreme adversity. They each became legends and painted their country across the world. From acclaimed director Louis Myles (Kaiser: The Greatest Footballer Never to Play Football, Liverpool FC: The 30-Year Wait).
  • “HD Cutz” — An original eight-part docuseries with barber to the stars Sheldon Edwards talking food, fashion, music and, sometimes, football. Featuring the likes of Paul Pogba and Antonio Rüdiger, produced by MOTIF Pictures and Fever Media.
  • Dani Crazy Dream — An all-access 6 x 30-minute documentary series featuring Dani Alves,the most decorated player in history as he tries to make it to the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar. Produced by Alves’s own production company, Maracanã Media.
  • Golden Boot — An original 4 x 48-minute docuseries interviewing the greatest FIFA World Cup goalscorers, produced by Goalhanger Films (Wayne Rooney: The Man Behind the Goals). Episode 1 sees Gary Lineker sitting down with Brazilian great Ronaldo Nazário to rewatch the 2002 FIFA World Cup.
  • “Icons” — A 5 x 26-minute docuseries showcasing five of the biggest game-changers of the women’s game: Wendie Renard, Lucy Bronze, Asisat Oshoala, Carli Lloyd and Sam Kerr telling their stories in their own words. Produced by Noah Media Group (14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible, Finding Jack Charlton).
  • “Academies” — The inside story of some of the greatest talent production lines in world football from Shoot the Company. Season 1 tells the story of RSC Anderlecht across 3 x 30-minute episodes.

HBO Max to Stream U.S. National Team Soccer

WarnerMedia’s Turner Sports and the U.S. Soccer Federation have reached an eight-year multimedia rights agreement that will make TNT/TBS and HBO Max the exclusive English-language home to more than 20 women’s and men’s national team matches annually, beginning in 2023.

The new agreement will feature high-profile matches on TNT or TBS and a full slate of matches available through Max. In addition, the partnership will include digital and highlight rights for the Bleacher Report online platform and its related portfolio brands.

Max will live-stream more than 20 United States National Soccer Team matches each year. TNT or TBS will televise approximately half of those matches — all simulcast on Max — with the remaining matches being exclusive to the rapidly growing streaming platform.

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“This is a significant milestone for Turner Sports and WarnerMedia, further demonstrating our commitment to the distribution of premium live sports content on Max, while simultaneously fueling our leading entertainment networks, digital and social assets,” Lenny Daniels, president of Turner Sports, said in a statement.

U.S. Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone said the negotiations revolved around Turner’s desire to expand the women’s game. The U.S. Women’s National Team has been a global power for years.

“As we build towards 2026 and beyond, we have found a fantastic partner to spotlight the stories of our women’s and men’s national teams,” Cone said.

Per the terms of the agreement, Turner Sports will be the exclusive domestic, English-language rightsholder for U.S. National Team World Cup qualifiers, National Team friendlies (including premium U.S. matches against Mexico), send-off matches and special events leading up to and following the World Cup and Olympic Games, and the SheBelieves Cup, among additional events involving the Women’s and Men’s National Soccer Teams.

In addition, Turner Sports and Bleacher Report will have exclusive rights to live event coverage, including the potential to create interactive companion broadcasting experiences and/or newly developed matches or tournaments; behind-the-scenes content, such as the opportunity to produce docuseries and ancillary programming; along with bespoke digital experiences, in association with both teams.

Bleacher Report, including its B/R Football platform, will have expansive digital and highlight rights; Turner Sports will have TV Everywhere rights that will allow its networks to make the soccer matches and related programming available to authenticated subscribers across all WarnerMedia platforms. The agreement also includes additional content and storytelling opportunities throughout the WarnerMedia portfolio, e-commerce rights, the possibility of integrating sports betting experiences, among others.

In addition to joining Turner Sports’ portfolio of sports content — which also includes the NBA, Major League Baseball, the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship and National Hockey League, along with the depth of interactive fan experiences offered throughout Bleacher Report products and platforms — the partnership with the U.S. Soccer Federation will provide Turner with the opportunity to leverage a network of lifestyle and entertainment brands to drive next-gen soccer fandom and further expand the sport’s growing impact on mainstream culture in the United States.

FuboTV Sub-Licensing European Soccer via Fox Sports

Global live soccer continues to be a magnet for U.S. streaming platforms.

Online TV platform FuboTV Jan. 24 became the latest domestic streamer to announce it has secured exclusive U.S. rights through a six-year sublicense with Fox Sports to stream select matches from Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). The distribution deal kicks off with the UEFA Nations League in June. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Through its deal with Fox, FuboTV will be the exclusive home to a package of selected UEFA National Team Football matches through 2028. Fubo will have exclusive rights to stream select matches featuring the top European national teams, including Italy, France, England, Germany, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands. The company’s coverage includes select matches within the following events in all languages (except Spanish and Portuguese):

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  • UEFA Nations League
  • European Qualifiers to UEFA Euro 2024 and 2028
  • European Qualifiers to FIFA World Cup 2026
  • Friendly Matches played by European nations controlled by UEFA
  • UEFA Euro2024 (5 Matches)
  • UEFA Euro2028 (5 Matches)

 

“Soccer has always been integral to FuboTV’s DNA,” David Gandler, co-founder/CEO of the online service said in a statement. “Today’s announcement marks an important milestone for the company as we work to differentiate our sports-first content portfolio and reinvent interactive sports and entertainment television.”

FuboTV’s UEFA coverage will stream on Fubo Sports Network, which is available as part of Fubo’s base plan of 100+ sports, news and entertainment channels. Select UEFA matches and all re-broadcasts will stream on Fubo Sports Network and its distribution partners, including Hisense Smart TVs, LG Channels, Sports on Tubi, Plex, Samsung TV Plus, The Roku Channel, Vizio Channels and Comcast-owned ad-supported platform Xumo.

FuboTV Acquires Exclusive Premier League Soccer Rights in Canada

FuboTV, the sports-themed online TV streaming service, Jan. 13 announced it would be the exclusive home to the Premier League, England’s top professional soccer league, in the Canadian market for the next three seasons beginning in 2022-23. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The streaming platform will carry all 380 Premier League matches each season and shoulder programming on its growing Canadian platform through the 2024-25 season. All content will stream live on FuboTV and its linear channel, Fubo Sports Network.

The deal follows a similar Canadian distribution agreement FuboTV inked for Italian Serie A and Coppa Italia rights, underscoring the platform’s aggressive push for top-tier soccer programming. In addition to exclusive rights, FuboTV streams more than a dozen popular sports and entertainment channels including OneSoccer and Paramount Network, home to one of TV’s hottest dramas, “Yellowstone.”

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“This deal allows us to bring yet another top-notch property to FuboTV, further differentiating our content offering, and giving Canadians another reason to cut the cord for exciting, exclusive sports content,” David Gandler, co-founder/CEO of FuboTV, said in a statement.

For Paul Molnar, chief media officer of the Premier League, the distribution rights underscore the league’s global appeal — and growing streaming interest in live sports.

“We look forward to working together to bring the excitement of the Premier League to both new and existing fans,” Molnar said.

In addition to its soccer rights in Canada, FuboTV has exclusive streaming rights to the Qatar World Cup 2022 Qualifying matches of the South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) in the United States.

American over-the-top video’s love affair with soccer began in 2019 when Amazon Prime Video inked Premier League distribution rights for select matches — in the U.K. Prime Video is also the official regional digital broadcast partner for the Seattle Sounders FC of Major League Soccer.

Perhaps no streamer has been more aggressive acquiring foreign soccer rights than Paramount+. The erstwhile CBS All Access SVOD has quietly acquired soccer streaming rights from around the world for distribution in the U.S.

Paramount+ has rights to the UEFA Champions League, NWSL, Europa League, Serie A, Concacaf Nations League, men’s and women’s CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers, UEFA Conference League, Brasileirāo, Coppa Italia, Supercoppa Italiana, Copa de la Liga Profesional, the Supercopa Argentina, as well as the Asian Football Confederation.

“This is exactly the kind of programming that turns new subscribers into lifelong fans,” said George Cheeks, CEO of the CBS Entertainment Group. “We are making soccer a core pillar of sports exclusively available on Paramount+.”

Discovery+ Greenlights Doc on Alleged Qatar World Cup Soccer Corruption

Discovery+ Sept. 20 announced the commission of the two-part documentary The Men Who Sold the World Cup, about the alleged corruption surrounding the upcoming 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The series premieres exclusively on Discovery+ Oct. 17, and in the United Kingdom Oct. 21.

The oil-rich Middle East country of Qatar secured the surprise World Cup host bid in 2010 despite having scant soccer fans and even fewer air-conditioned stadiums required to host the quadrennial event in triple-digit temperatures.

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While the awarding of the World Cup to countries has been rumored for years to have been infested with bribery, corruption, global politics, backroom deals and greed, documentary directors Daniel DiMauro and Morgan Pehme (Get Me Roger Stone, The Swamp) showcase an unbelievable story of how soccer’s biggest competition was sold to the highest bidders.

With exclusive interviews from those at the heart of the story, the documentary reveals the stranger-than-fiction truth behind how the event was sold by some of international soccer’s most senior officials — notably ex-FIFA boss Sepp Blatter — and how they were eventually evicted from their seats of power and luxury lifestyles.

This was a world where, for some, normal rules didn’t apply and bribery and embezzlement were just part of business. The doc is a Shakespearian narrative of money, power and corruption, featuring a cast of outrageous characters, including U.S. soccer bigwig Chuck Blazer and Qatari deal-maker Mohamed Bin Hammam, among others.

Contributors include a whistle-blower from the Qatari bid team; Blatter’s former press chief; soccer greats Jurgen Klinsmann and Landon Donovan; and Blatter, among others.

The first episode features Sunday Times investigators Heidi Blake and Jonathan Calvert, and follows their investigation that revealed rampant corruption at the heart of FIFA. The second episode features FBI and IRS investigators whose job it was to expose criminal behavior they likened to organized crime.

The Men Who Sold the World Cup is a highly gripping series that provides a yet untold insight into one of the biggest sports scandals in history,” Simon Downing, head of factual and sports U.K. at Discovery, said in a statement. “The series is a great addition to our Discovery+ Original Sports content, including highly titles like Reaching The Sky and What Killed Maradona?”

Cinedigm Adds Four Streaming Platforms to The Roku Channel

Cinedigm Aug. 24 announced that four of its newest channels are now available on ad-supported The Roku Channel. The channels include recent licensees “Real Madrid TV,” showcasing one Spain’s top soccer clubs; reality-based “So … Real” and “The Only Way Is Essex,” as well as Robert Rodriguez’s “El Rey Network.”

Access to The Roku Channel enables Cinedigm to share with Roku in any ad-revenue generated by its licensed channels across a platform Roku said saw more than 55 million monthly active viewers through the second quarter, ended June 30.

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“The Roku Channel continues to grow as a go-to destination for streaming, enabling users to discover and enjoy a wide variety of programming,” Daniel Schneider, SVP of revenue at Cinedigm, said in a statement. “We are thrilled to help make such a variety of new channels that we know will appeal to each enthusiast audience available on The Roku Channel.”

Amazon Prime Video Lands a Soccer ‘GOAT’

NEWS ANALYSIS — Amazon Prime Video, unlike other subscription streaming pioneers Netflix and Hulu, has never shied away from live sports. In addition to a smattering of New York Yankees games and sponsorship of Major Soccer League’s Seattle Sounders, Amazon’s biggest deal in the U.S. involved securing exclusive rights to “NFL Thursday Night Football,” featuring the first-ever female broadcast team.

In Europe, Amazon made headlines securing exclusive broadcast rights to French soccer’s top Ligue 1. The league received a surprise boost Aug. 10 when Argentina’s Lionel Messi, often considered the greatest soccer player ever, left Spain’s FC Barcelona to join Paris Saint-Germain in a two-year deal.

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“I am excited to begin a new chapter of my career at Paris Saint-Germain,” Messi said in a statement.

Overnight, Amazon’s gamble on French soccer would appear to have struck gold. Messi, a six-time Ballon d’Or winner, could play in PSG’s match against Brest on Aug. 21.

Amazon swooped up Ligue 1 rights at a discount (275 million euros/$321 million) with professional soccer across Europe dealing with the fiscal fallout from the pandemic that has resulted in shuttered stadiums and zero ticket/concessions revenue. Prime Video typically includes live sports at no additional charge to subscribers.

For Ligue 1 access, Prime Video is charging subs an additional 13 euros ($15.18) monthly, on top of the 6 euros ($7) base Prime membership fee.

Observers contend Amazon needs 1.2 million subscribers to break even on Ligue 1. Prime Video currently has about 4.5 million French subs; and 175 million worldwide.

“Amazon proved agile in buying the rights on the cheap, but it still has to demonstrate it can leverage them to significantly increase its e-commerce business footprint,” Francois Godard, analyst at Enders Analysis, wrote in a recent note.

Cinedigm Partners With Spanish Soccer Powerhouse Real Madrid for Streaming Channel

Cinedigm has partnered with Spanish soccer giant Real Madrid to expand distribution of the team’s branded sports streaming channel in North America.

Real Madrid TV will feature thousands of hours of soccer content leading up to the 2021-22 season, and will also feature up to three matches weekly once the season kicks off. The service will be available in the United States and Canada for linear and AVOD platforms on connected TVs, digital set-top boxes and media-streaming devices, as well as the web.

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Real Madrid is the most successful club in Europe winning the coveted Champions League a record 13 times. Founded in 1902, the club would come to dominate the next century, earning the unprecedented honor of FIFA Club of the 20th Century in 2000. Since then, their fortunes have only increased, and the club has been a highly sought out destination for the best football players on the planet.

The streaming channel is the latest addition to Cinedigm’s roster of channels currently live across the broader OTT landscape on distribution partners, including The Roku Channel, Pluto TV, Samsung, TCL and Tubi, among others.

The deal was negotiated by Josh Thomashow, executive director of acquisitions at Cinedigm, and SportFive on behalf of Real Madrid.

“Soccer is the most popular sport in the world with an extreme level of fandom,” Erick Opeka, president of Cinedigm Digital Networks, said in a statement. “Partnering with Real Madrid, and giving this global club an exclusive home to many of the biggest OTT distribution partners in North America, will allow viewers to experience never before released content in the United States.”

The channel will provide viewers access to matches during the season of Real Madrid’s La Liga games, as well as its UEFA Champions League and Cup tournaments. In addition, the channel will air classic programing, exclusive club insight, breaking news and more. More than 8,000 hours of content will be made available annually. At launch, the streaming channel will feature:

  • Live Press Conferences
  • Exclusive Interviews
  • Live Training Sessions
  • Classic Matches
  • Magazine Shows
  • Real Madrid News Programming
  • Special Features

Reed Hastings Takes Self-Deprecating Shot at Soccer’s Super League

Who knew Reed Hastings was such a soccer fan? The Netflix co-founder/co-CEO took to social media to weigh in on the European Super League Company, or Super League, an upstart group of 12 of soccer’s most well-known and wealthiest clubs launching a private annual tournament in which they keep all revenue, including TV rights, ticket sales, concessions, etc., among themselves.

As word of the Super League spread, backlash from fans exploded, with many dubbing the concept “Super Greed,” or the “Americanization” of soccer, among other criticisms. Already several clubs have backtracked their involvement, putting in doubt whether the league will even happen.

That apparently struck close to home for Hastings, who tweeted on April 23: “Should the Super League Have Been Named Qwikster?”

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It was 10 years ago this summer when Hastings, seemingly unilaterally, from his home sent out a message on social media announcing the launch of Qwikster, a standalone separate business handling Netflix’s legacy by-mail disc-rental service. Netflix, going forward, would just focus on streaming video.

“DVD by mail may not last forever, but we want it to last as long as possible,” Hastings tweeted in the Qwikster blog post, setting off a public relations nightmare in the process.

The pushback from subscribers and investors was immediate. Netflix’s most-popular plan at the time was a hybrid streaming/disc option that resonated with more than 12 million users. More than 800,000 subs dropped the service overnight in protest, sending the company’s stock freefalling. The move, which some suggest should be enshrined into the “Dumb Ideas Hall of Fame” along with New Coke and Prohibition, made global headlines with some calls for Hastings to step down.

To his credit, Hastings took personal responsibility for the decision, apologizing for not respecting subscriber interests and market reality. Disc rental at the time represented Netflix’s most lucrative business, financially supporting the company’s aggressive international forays into subscription streaming video.

A lone silver lining to the mess: Netflix never had to deal with Jason Castillo, the reported former high-schooler who shrewdly already owned the Twitter handle @Qwikster.

 

 

Germany’s Bundesliga Soccer to Resume on May 16

Germany’s Bundesliga professional soccer league is set to become one of the first sports organizations in the world to resume play on May 16. All remaining nine weekend games of the season will be played in empty stadiums for televised and streaming video audiences. The league has been suspended since March 13.

The German Football Association says the matches would run under strict health protocols, including requiring players have regular COVID-19 tests.

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Comcast’s Sky Deutschland will broadcast all games live in Germany and Austria. Pay-TV operator BT Sports has Bundesliga rights in the U.K. is reportedly considering broadcasting the games for free (with ads).

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