Ground-breaker: LAFC 'reimagines' local sports TV with YouTube TV deal

Most MLS fans will notice the agreement between Los Angeles FC and YouTube TV in terms of YouTube TV's presence as LAFC's jersey sponsor.

But the agreement is much more than that. YouTube TV, the digital subscription-content provider not to be confused with the ubiquitous YouTube video site, has agreed to give LAFC its own channel among its offerings of more than 40 networks in the Los Angeles market and carry all its local broadcasts.

What deal means. LAFC has made the strategic decision that it wants to reach its fans on their viewing turf and where it will find them tomorrow and not on the viewing turf of their parent sports fans.

The new MLS team is betting that if young fans have the choice between purchasing a streaming service and a cable package, they are more and more likely to go with the former -- and will pick YouTube TV from among the service options.

(LAFC is also expected to have a separate over-the-air partner, likely giant Spanish-language network KMEX.)

Yes, that audience would be limited to those who have paid for YouTube TV. But in the cable sphere, it would be limited to those who have access to the cable provider that carries the network holding the rights. (That's a huge issue in the Los Angeles market with the Dodgers' blackout.)

The deal is the first exclusive deal by a big five sports league club with a streaming partner.

(Digital giants like Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Verizon and Yahoo have entered into or sought out national streaming deals. They are generally limited in their ability to geo-fence, making local streaming deals up until now impossible. The NASL's San Francisco Deltas had a national streaming deal with Twitter in 2017.)

What is YouTube TV. YouTube TV costs $35 a month. No long-term agreement is required. It includes networks and popular cable networks, including ESPN networks and Fox Sports 1. It is similar to other streaming services like Hulu Live, DirecTV Now, Sling TV, and PlayStation VUE that have popped up.

LAFC on television.
LAFC is also slated to have 16 nationally televised games (the most in the league): six on ESPN, three on Fox, three on FS1 and four on Univision. The other 18 games will all air on the LAFC YouTube TV channel. (All but the four Univision games of the national broadcasts would be available on YouTube TV networks.)

Because YouTube TV is geo-fenced by market, fans outside the LA area will be blocked from watching live LAFC game broadcasts on their local YouTube TV package. They will be able to watch other LAFC programming, though, including 30-minute pre- and post-game shows. (National streaming will still be available via MLS Live.)

Significantly, the channel will also give LAFC a vehicle for club-produced programming that other clubs now are limited to airing via the reach of their Web sites, social media platforms or the breadth of the agreement with local partners.

What They're Saying:
LAFC president Tom Penn:
"This truly is a historic day for our club. YouTube TV is an ambitious and innovative brand that we are proud to showcase on the front of our jersey and in our community."

Tim Katz, YouTube's director of Sports Partnerships for the Americas:
"LAFC is re-imagining the sports landscape in the same innovative way we strive to re-imagine the live TV experience. We couldn't be more excited to partner with LAFC to be the exclusive home for all locally televised matches and to share our name of the front of their jerseys."

1 comment about "Ground-breaker: LAFC 'reimagines' local sports TV with YouTube TV deal".
  1. Jason Hintz llopis, January 31, 2018 at 11:59 p.m.

    Yeah dumb.   Didn't they learn from the fiasco of the L.A. Dodgers?   How many fans still hate today that the channel didn't open all to all like it was suppose to?   How all Dodger games used to be free?    $35/month?!   This is bad, bad step by LAFC and I was looking forward to getting into this team.

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