The battle for live streaming supremacy has extended to the world of sports, where a bidding war recently erupted over the NFL’s digital broadcasting rights. YouTube, reportedly a player in those negotiations, didn’t end up winning the NFL deal (Amazon did), but it will be able to stream a pair of major sporting events in the near future. For the second year in a row, Britain’s BT Sport will stream the finals of both the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Europa League on YouTube, thus bringing club soccer’s top competition online.
The Champions League, which pits soccer clubs from 53 regions against one another until only one is left standing, is one of the most popular sporting events in the world. A Washington Post report from 2016 noted that the previous year’s Champions League final drew 180 million viewers, dwarfing the 114.4 million who tuned in for that year’s Super Bowl. UEFA’s second-tier club competition, the Europa League, is a big draw in its own right, and since this year’s final features two of the most popular teams in the world — England’s Manchester United and Holland’s Ajax — it is likely to draw extra attention.
Last year’s Champions League and Europa League streams proved to be big hits for BT Sport, which counted three million live viewers on YouTube. To spice things up, this year’s Champions League broadcast will also be available on VR devices.
Given the degree to which live streaming has heated up over the past year, YouTube’s deal with BT Sport looks extra wise. Big audiences will return to the broadcaster’s channel soon; the Europa League final is on May 24th, and the ultimate Champions League tilt — which this year will pit Spain’s Real Madrid against Italy’s Juventus — will follow on June 3rd.