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At the end of their first season broadcasting the UEFA Women’s Champions League, DAZN Group claim that fans from over 230 countries and territories have tuned into the competition generating an unprecedented 56 million views for its matches and content. Ahead of Saturday’s eagerly-anticipated final, DAZN VP Katie Smith hailed the figures as “extraordinary”.
In its 20th season, the competition has broken new ground following its first-ever global broadcast deal with DAZN Group who have made all 61 matches available to watch free on its YouTube channel. This greater exposure has led to more column inches, world-record attendances and a growing confidence in the viability of the competition once DAZN, who purchased the exclusive rights to the tournament in a four-year deal last June, impose a paywall on matches from next summer.
Smith told me “in addition to a truly global audience engagement thus far, we’ve been delighted with the volume of press coverage since the announcement of the partnership last year, with thousands and thousands of articles across the world to further give the competition non-stop exposure like never before.”
Spain, the United States, France, Germany and the United Kingdom all feature in the top five markets on the DAZN YouTube channel this season while Germany, Spain, Italy, Japan, and Canada were the top five markets tuning in on the DAZN platform. 55% of all viewers around the world are in the 18-34 age group.
What is more unexpected is the 80/20 split between male and female viewership which has surprised even Smith. “We were expecting a male skew given that how the general sports fan demographic skews, though it’s fair to say that we perhaps weren’t expecting 80/20. This provides a huge opportunity throughout the next three years of the partnership, and we’ll be working diligently to better understand the barriers of viewership and concentrate on attracting more female fans to tune in as part of our wider audience growth strategy.”
From the 2023/24 season, 42 of the 61 matches will only be available to DAZN subscribers. Smith explained to me that “when select fixtures become available on the DAZN platform only in the latter two years of the deal, there will still be a strategy where highlights are consistently shared to DAZN’s YouTube, Twitter and Instagram channels – mirroring how we treat the men’s game.”
Subscribers to the DAZN dedicated YouTube channel for the UEFA Women’s Champions League swelled from 275,000 to 319,000 during the semi-finals and Smith is confident their model will convince viewers to pay for content in the future. “There are many things that make a property commercially viable at DAZN, and the acquisition and retention of subscribers is certainly one metric. We’re comfortable with how we will approach converting this engaged audience after season two and invigorated by the millions of streams that have come in across each stage on the DAZN platform from all over the world.”
She is also unconcerned that content sharing on social media may undermine their pay-model in years to come. “As is universal to all sports and how fans share content, our focus currently remains driving mass global awareness, access, and audience engagement. This includes engaging content, from highlights to behind-the-scenes interviews to short-form features, that we are delighted to see fans regularly sharing.”
Much of the publicity generated by the UEFA Women’s Champions League this season has centered around the matches played in the club’s principal stadium. All four quarter-final second legs and all four semi-final ties were played in stadiums traditionally reserved for the club’s men’s teams. The five-figure attendances in each of those games, including the two largest crowds of the European soccer season at Barcelona’s Camp Nou, banished the belief that people would not pay to watch elite women’s soccer.
With Arsenal Women already committing to stage of all next season’s Champions League group-stage matches at their 60,260-capacity Emirates Stadium, Smith believes that this will soon become the norm in the competition. “DAZN made its intention to UEFA and the clubs clear from the start of the partnership, with our launch film ‘We All Rise, With More Eyes’ encapsulating the ripple effect we believe in, including bigger stadiums leading to more fans, more coverage, and more momentum for the game. Thus, we were keen from the start that the clubs used their primary stadium where possible.”
“Throughout the competition, it has been incredible to see the players have the opportunity to play in those iconic stadiums and shatter records time and time again, including FC Barcelona Femení at Camp Nou, Arsenal Women at the Emirates Stadium and Paris Saint-Germain Féminines at Parc des Princes, to name a few.”
DAZN’s remarkable viewing figures have been achieved in spite of the failure of the three English clubs to make a mark in the competition. Manchester City went out in the qualifying stages, champions Chelsea in the group stage and Arsenal in the first knockout round. With the country’s insatiable appetite for the game, Smith believes that should those teams prosper in future years, it will only add to the worldwide interest in the competition. “Both of those clubs have huge global followings: they have world-class players and have won the Women’s Super League and the FA Cup, and because of the tradition of the club and the support for the men’s game, they attract loyal fans in Asia and North America which are important markets to us.”
“That said, DAZN’s multi-year ambition has always been to grow the global audience of the competition and we were thus delighted with the sensational semi-finals that drove viewership from all corners of the globe. The final between two juggernauts of the women’s game, Lyon and Barcelona, has driven such international fervor we’ve agreed to numerous local TV broadcast deals for the match – including in the UK – in addition to the event being available worldwide on DAZN and DAZN’s YouTube channel. As global broadcaster, it’s fantastic to see such international story-lines appealing to so many of our key markets pulling through stage after stage.”
Much of the fan engagement this season has come through DAZN’s exclusive off-pitch footage and features known as ‘shoulder content’ as Smith explained to me, “shoulder content is fundamental to the mission that DAZN is on to increase visibility and coverage of women’s sports. To reach beyond the existing hardcore fans, most people need to be educated about the who/what/why for the players and the clubs. Even if you are a die-hard Arsenal fan and know Jonas Eidevall, you might not know Vivianne Miedema’s background or motivations, which she opened up about to us in ‘Letter to My Hero’ – one of DAZN’s best performing storytelling series. It’s incredibly important for us to bring non-stop stories about the incredibly diverse and endlessly fascinating players to fans around the world.”
“Highlights, footage-based compilations and ‘behind the scenes on match day’ style content also drives substantial viewership, and in our growth phase that has been fundamental content we’ve been creating non-stop to grow our channels. We’ve done a lot of ‘testing and learning’ this season, and after each non-live content franchise is published, we reflect on key performance metrics to understand if it’s content that is resonating with existing fans or attracting new fans. If so, we continue and if not, we pivot to something new and different – all part of a goal to continuously deliver the best arsenal of content we can to engage fans globally and retain audiences.”
“Having the ability to consume what you want and when you want is fundamental to the growth phase of the game, and we see fantastic engagement across all of our shoulder content as well as all live matches on both DAZN and DAZN’s YouTube channel – and both platforms allow viewers to select where they watch from.”
For women’s soccer fans around the world there could not be a more appetizing final in prospect than Saturday’s clash of the two previous champions, Olympique Lyonnais and FC Barcelona, the clubs ranked number one and two on the continent by UEFA. Smith said DAZN will be offering comprehensive coverage throughout the weekend. “The final will be offered in at least ten language commentary feeds across DAZN, DAZN’s YouTube channel, and linear TV broadcasters for fans worldwide, as part of our ongoing commitment to make the competition as accessible and engaging as possible for global audiences.”
“DAZN lead-up content will include new series such as ‘The Replay,’ where two players re-watch highlights of an iconic UEFA Women’s Champions League Final from the past; the first episode features Lyon’s Wendie Renard and Melvine Malard and is already live. Another fun new series is ‘Tunnel Vision,’ where players from both teams including Alexia Putellas, Caroline Graham Hansen, Jenni Hermoso and Christiane Endler open up about their pre-match superstitions and routines – particularly around the final.”
“Building up to the final, a one-hour Countdown Show will lead into the English language broadcast on DAZN and DAZN’s YouTube channel before the main broadcast of the final, hosted by presenter Anita Jones from Juventus Stadium and chocked full of build-up content to really get fans hyped pre-game.”