FIFA+ and what it can mean for the future of football

FIFA+ broadcast

In 2022, FIFA plans to broadcast more than 29,000 men’s matches and 11,000 women’s matches on its FIFA+ streaming app. Initially, these live streams are all free for users; initially being the keyword. Advertising and sponsorship are surely on the horizon.

FIFA oversees six confederations and 211 individual men’s nations as members. In addition, there are 129 women’s associations. Everything goes through FIFA at the end, which basically means kick-offs don’t happen without FIFA’s advice.

Speculation is rife in football. FIFA says FIFA+ is “truly global and inclusive”. In other words, he’s here to grow the game and connect fans around the world through the sport.

But is FIFA+ a free streaming service offered by the goodness of FIFA’s heart? Or does FIFA have ulterior motives to control the broadcasting of football for its benefit?

FIFA+ could end up being FIFA’s way of claiming some of the broadcast rights deals that dominate the sports media industry. There is no doubt that the future of football broadcasting is streaming. At the same time, FIFA is focused on increasing its power and control over the global game.

FIFA+ could be his gateway into future deals.

Imagine these two possible scenarios:

Plan A

FIFA unites all confederations and associations and presents the ultimate financial plan. Here, each member and confederation receives a share of the revenue from the audience generated for each game. Then each organization distributes the money relating to the points of each ranking. Individual leagues or nations also consider per-game ratings for distribution.

Now, that sounds pretty simple. Each team earns money based on its popularity, viewership, and success. Ergo, everyone goes home happy. However, this is not the case in the world of football.

Egos and executives have biases about who deserves and earns a certain amount of money. Some owners strongly believe that their club deserves more than any other club in a certain league.

Nor is it a selective problem for club football. The associations controlling the worldwide broadcasting rights do not want to see their income diminish in the short term. Clearly, TV broadcast deals bring in billions of dollars every year, both at club and international level.

No one likes to lose potential gains in a trade. Billionaire owners of various football leagues might not prosper based on their knowledge of football. However, they do possess knowledge about money, and lots of it.

Likewise, the relationship between FIFA and UEFA have no love lost.

Plan B

Some confederations align themselves with FIFA’s monetary distribution plan. However, UEFA, which represents Europe, understands that it is the most popular. The Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A, Ligue Un, European Championships and UEFA Champions League are unrivalled. Therefore, media rights deals across UEFA are more important than anywhere else.

UEFA does not want its money generated from broadcast deals to be sent to a team in the background. UEFA can argue that FIFA+ should take care of smaller confederations, leagues and teams.

A Europe-focused version of FIFA+, possibly running on its already established platform of UEFA Television, would rival all the content of the other confederations combined. The only exception is CONMEBOL in South America.

Imagine the hypothetical potential of something like UEFA TV. All European League and Cup matches available on your streaming device. Initially, it’s free. It attracts viewers to show off how awesome it is before loading it up with sponsorships, subscriptions, and advertising.

Could UEFA deny FIFA+ access to league matches? FIFA states that FIFA+ broadcasts live matches from each of the six confederations. Yet is there any reason to believe that UEFA could step in and take control of this?

FIFA+, football streaming and broadcasting

On the speculation front, let’s say either Plan A or Plan B – maybe Plans C, D, E will come along. How do individual broadcasters deal with these plans?

Today’s world revolves around cord cutting and streaming to watch football. Even then, many fans are still watching the world’s most popular sport via OTA or cable. The development of super-fast internet is reaching far reaches of the globe. Each of the global football networks has a streaming version of their linear channels.

Imagine if Plan A and Plan B come together. Fans can access all of these games via streaming. Initially, it is a free service to “develop the game”. Yet, after a certain period of time, FIFA+ or another competitor becomes $9.99 per month for streaming services.

The consequences would be severe for OTA and cable sport. Major sports broadcasters, including CBS, FOX, ESPN and NBC in the United States, would not be willing to spend billions on football rights available in a package elsewhere. These providers and channels would surely find other television products to spend a lot of money on. Ultimately, this scenario could lead to the absence of football on OTA and cable.

Other Streaming Platforms

And where does plan A or plan B leave newcomers to the world of streaming. Apple, Amazon, Facebook, DAZN all have a stake in the future of football streaming.

Today it’s football, tomorrow it could be any other major sport in the United States. If the National Football League sees any of the aforementioned plans work, there’s little that would stop them from pursuing the more lucrative options. The NFL is already exploring something called NFL+ to support the streaming side of the sport. It would include, just like FIFA+, live games, team content, podcasts and more, according to Athletic’s Daniel Kaplan.

Money talks, and the NFL gets big money from FOX and CBS. The Premier League receives a large share from NBC, as does La Liga from ESPN or UEFA from CBS. However, streaming is a new ball game for these providers and competitions.

For sports, FIFA+ could be a great idea at its core for streaming. However, the world governing body may have opened its version of Pandora’s box.

Editor’s note: Dermot McQuarrie is a former FOX Soccer Channel executive. During his 17 years at FOX Sports, McQuarrie was a pioneer in growing the popularity of football on television in the United States, eventually becoming the company’s senior vice president. These days, McQuarrie is CEO of Dermot McQuarrie Associates.

PHOTO: Mateusz Slodkowski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

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