Explained: Messi in Barcelona colours coming soon on MTV

Messi is likely to team up with his friend and country mate Aguera, Barca's new signing, up front. And unique to this season, the two will be showcasing their magical ball skills on the iconic music channel MTV.

After leading Argentina to the Copa America title, his first for the national team, Lionel Messi is expected to join Barcelona next month when the LaLiga season kicks off. Though his contract has expired, Messi is likely to team up with his friend and country mate Aguera, Barca’s new signing, up front. And unique to this season, the two will be showcasing their magical ball skills on the iconic music channel MTV.

How can Messi & Co feature on a music channel?

LaLiga, the premier Spanish football league, has signed a three-year-deal with MTV which stipulates that matches featuring the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid will be broadcast live on the music channel. The deal, which covers the Indian subcontinent, comes into effect when the 2021-22 LaLiga season gets underway on August 13. It brings another player into the sports broadcasting market in the country.

Why MTV for LaLiga?

The deal seals a return for the Spanish league on television screens across India, after a three-year period when its matches were aired on social networking platform Facebook. “This is a strategic decision (to tie up with MTV). LaLiga is always ready to innovate and try out new things. In fact, that’s why we worked with Facebook before this,” Aakriti Vohra, Head, Brand Properties, La Liga India, told The Indian Express.

How can the deal help LaLiga make greater inroads into the Indian market?

The English Premier League is the most popular domestic competition among European football followers in the country, and has been on the Star network for decades now. It has a very dedicated following with even smaller clubs enjoying some sort of following. It’s also a much more competitive league and a relatively smaller club, like Leicester City, can also aspire to be champion. The German Bundesliga is also aired on Star. LaLiga was also once a Star property.

In comparison, the Spanish league is generally dominated by the three big clubs – Real, Atletico and Barcelona – with the other teams realistically fighting for Champions League or Europa League spots. Also, the following of LaLiga outside Europe is largely individual-centric. Messi is still the biggest name in the league, but with the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo from Real to Juventus and the moving on of icons such as Xavi and Andres Iniesta, there is a dearth of household names in the league when it comes to attracting the casual sports fan.

With the MTV deal, LaLiga may want to attract a whole new demographic which may not be totally smitten by the Premier League yet and may create more stars. “We are confident that we will reach and engage with the youthful audience that MTV as a destination appeals to,” Oscar Mayo, Executive Director, LaLiga, said in a joint press release.

Can MTV foray in sports be a game-changing move?

Not being a traditional sports channel, MTV may look to do things a bit differently, moving away from the conventional anchor-expert format for pre- and post-game shows. One may recall the time when Sony Max broadcast top-level cricket tournaments, including two World Cups, and had a distinct entertainment slant in its coverage. The purists took their time in warming up to the change, but it did attract a whole new dimension and viewer segment to the game. If MTV tries something similar, LaLiga may get a stronger foothold in the Indian market.

Also, Viacom18 Media is the conglomerate which includes MTV and general entertainment channel Colors. Apart from MTV, LaLiga matches will also be aired on select national and regional channels of the network, and live-streamed on Voot and Jio platforms, providing considerable exposure to the product.

Ahead of the upcoming LaLiga season, Viacom18 plans to launch a “massive marketing and communications campaign, further building the fandom and outreach for LaLiga in India. MTV’s extensive social media and digital clout will ensure that LaLiga engages fans through a multi-platform approach,” the release added.

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“Viacom18 will leverage its TV, digital and social assets to make LaLiga a household name in the region.”

How can MTV benefit from the deal?

Apart from the strong football properties presently with Star, the Sony network has top competitions – like the UEFA Champions League, FIFA World Cup, European Championships and Copa America – in its stable.
According to Vohra, “Viacom is also looking to diversify their sports portfolio. There are big plans involved and we are very excited.”

It seems the latest acquisition, the first major sporting property for the network, could be the centre-piece around which the network’s strategy will be woven. “Viacom18 and MTV are committed to building a wholesome entertainment-driven ecosystem centred around LaLiga, in a bid to further augment the fandom of the game,” the release said.

Having a top-level European league may attract more youngsters, and subsequently older football lovers, to its fold.

What does it say about the evolution of MTV since its arrival in India?

MTV was the first dedicated music channel when satellite television entered India in the early- and mid-1990s. It generally focused on Pop music during its early years, before featuring Hindi film music, videos and other regional languages as well.

It later diversified into reality shows like MTV Roadies. The move into sports is just the latest diversification and confirms the blurring of lines between various genres. Be it music, serials, reality shows or sports, everything is considered just another form of entertainment.

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