(Bloomberg) -- A record 3.6 million people watched the final of the UEFA Women Champions League game on Saturday, helped by a deal between DAZN Group Ltd. and YouTube to stream the competition for free.
Women’s football has exploded in popularity over recent years, with record attendances for recent high profile matches. The latest figures compares to about 2.3 million viewers for last season’s final.
Having the games streamed on YouTube has meant having access to a younger audience, said Markel Zubizarreta, head of Barcelona’s Women team, in an interview with Bloomberg News.
“The audience is increasingly broader,” said Zubizarreta. “Over April we were the first women team to be among the 20 clubs with more interactions on social media.”
Although Barcelona lost the UWCL final against Olympic Lyon, it recently set two world records for stadium audience at a women’s football game: 91,553 fans attended Barcelona against Real Madrid in the Champions League quarter-final match at Camp Nou, and 91,648 people attended for the semi-final against Wolfsburg at the same venue.
Under a four-year deal between DAZN and Youtube last June, the first two seasons of the UEFA Champions League are shown for free on DAZN’s YouTube channel. After that, all 61 matches will be shown on DAZN while 19 will be for available on YouTube. This year’s final was also shown by ITV in the UK and Ireland, TF1 France and RTVE and TV3 in Spain.
“When we did the business case for this, we didn’t factor anybody watching this behind DAZN’s paywall, but the split on numbers is much more 70% on YouTube and 30% on our platform already,” said Ed McCarthy, DAZN’s chief commercial officer, in an interview. “And that’s very exciting for us, we’re well in advance of where we thought we would be in terms of the product and the engagement of subscribers, and it validates what everybody’s done, including players and clubs.”
The total viewership for the Champion League’s 61 matches, including highlights, player interviews and other content, was 64 million views on DAZN and DAZN’s UWCL YouTube channel, DAZN said in a statement.
Winnings have also increased. FC Barcelona received 300,000 euros ($320,000) for winning the UEFA Champions League last year, whereas this year clubs received 400,000 euros for participating and 1.3 million euros for winning, according to Zubizarreta.
US Soccer recently announced new collective bargaining agreements with the men’s and women’s players associations that will achieve equal pay “through identical economic terms.” The two deals run through 2028.
However, the winnings are still dwarfed by the mens competition. The men’s teams of Liverpool and Real Madrid will receive 15.5 million euros per club for reaching the final.
Based on Google search data, there has also been a sustained search interest throughout the competition, according to Richard Lewis, YouTube’s director of media and sports partnership. “The more popular it is, the better for advertising and hence the more interest from sponsors,” he said in an interview. UWCL sponsorships including Heineken and Spanish pharma group Grifols.
The UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 is set to tale place in the summer in England. According to a report by consultancy firm EY, broadcast audience could reach over 250 million. Based on ticket sales, the tournament is on track to double the attendance of the 2017 edition in the Netherlands which welcomed over 240,000 fans, according to the report.
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