Spain’s top tier soccer division LaLiga was buzzing on both sides of the Atlantic this week. In the States, LaLiga North America is partnering with digital technology company LiveLike to host a series of star-studded watch parties, while on Tuesday, LaLiga’s Madrid offices hosted a digital presentation of the technologies being improved and implemented this season to upgrade the home viewing experience.
Planned for five of the season’s most highly-anticipated matches, the first being Oct. 24’s El Clásico between Barcelona and Real Madrid, LiveLike and LaLiga North America will invite a group of Spanish soccer superfans to an exclusive watch party hosted by a LaLiga legend.
Players lined up to participate include Atletíco de Madrid and Villarreal forward Diego Forlán, Real Madrid striker Fernando Morientes, Barcelona great Samuel Eto’o, Tenerife and Real Madrid midfielder Fernando Redondo and Sevilla striker Kanouté, among others.
Powered by LiveLike, the parties will include streaming Q&As with the players before, at halftime and after the games, a live chat room during the game and other features intended to enhance the viewing experience.
“We are always looking for new and innovative ways to engage with our fans and bring LaLiga, its clubs and players closer to them,” said LaLiga North America CEO Boris Gartner. “This partnership provides our fans a unique experience of watching LaLiga’s biggest matches with former LaLiga players and legends, and other fans who share the same passion for football.”
“LaLiga is creatively bringing VIP activations to big matches using our interactive technology, and we look forward to continuing to work with them – as well as other leagues, teams and brands looking to bring fans closer to the action through watch parties and other premium experiences that we believe will continue to be long after the pandemic,” added Miheer Walavalkar, CEO and co-founder of LiveLike.
LiveLike’s features were designed to deliver a unique engagement opportunity to fans and increase audience retention and monetization opportunities for content owners and sports rights holders, leagues and teams. Its technologies integrate directly into partners’ existing apps and websites, giving them the opportunity to create enhanced experiences for fans.
In addition to LaLiga, LiveLike has partnered with Turner Sports for the NBA Playoffs and Sky Sports for the English Premier League, among others.
Meanwhile, back in Spain, stadiums for matches have been closed to spectators since LaLiga came back from its COVID-19 shutdown from March to June. So far, no plans to lift the audience ban have been announced, making TV broadcasts all the more important for the league.
Roger Brosel, La Liga head of content and programming, acknowledged as much, while emphasizing the league’s longstanding commitment to being “the best-produced sports competition in the world.”
“We’ve invested millions to innovate and implement technology, it is fundamental for us,” he explained, outlining several state-of-the-art upgrades utilizing data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning to be used during the 2020-21 season.
A direct result of fan restrictions, La Liga has repositioned broadcast cameras in its stadiums to provide new angles that show fewer empty seats and allow for more close-ups and better-detailed replays. Meanwhile, on the sidelines and in the tunnels, camera operators have been repositioned and instructed to conform to social distancing guidelines with players and staff. The league also offers superimposed ambient audio and virtual fans to create the illusion of a full stadium.
LaLiga has upped its on-screen augmented reality graphics to a degree that would make FIFA or Pro Evolution Soccer blush. Player names and statistics can now follow them around the field, a defensive line can be drawn in real time and a striker’s likelihood of scoring from any given position on the field can be displayed in an instant. Using artificial intelligence software, broadcasters can give detailed statistics and predictions of possession, fouls, corners, tactics, attacking areas and penalties.
Although Spain has strict rules on drone use in cities, broadcast partners Mediapro-Overon have been given permission to use the flying cameras during LaLiga matches, offering the most up-close aerial views of stadium exteriors in the league’s history.