World soccer’s highest governing body is getting into the streaming game.
FIFA, which is headquartered in Europe and is the organization that oversees the World Cup, has unveiled FIFA+, a free, ad-funded platform launching today, Tuesday April 12, as an app and website that will encompass live soccer games from domestic leagues around the world, plus archive clips and games, original content in the form of documentaries and a match center for results and stats. It will not, however, stream live World Cup matches.
According to FIFA president Gianni Infantino, FIFA+ “underpins FIFA’s core mission of expanding and developing football globally” and will “accelerate the democratization” of the sport.
FIFA+ will initially start with five languages — English, German, French, Spanish and Portuguese — with plans to add editions in Mandarin, Bahasa, Korean, Japanese, Italian, Arabic and Hindi within a few months, all part of an overall aim to be heavily localized and, in the words of FIFA’s director of strategy and corporate development Charlotte Burr, speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, become the “undisputed destination of football content.”
With the draw for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar having taken place earlier this month, FIFA is now hoping to build on the excitement and gather momentum ahead of the start of the competition in November.
“We will be evolving continually to a point when we get to the World Cup, so at that point, we really will be able to showcase what FIFA+ is about,” said Burr, adding that the platform will be the “companion experience to the World Cup.”
At launch, FIFA+ will include around 3,000 clips taken from the FIFA archive, which Burr describes as a “deepest, richest” archives of the sport in existence, with every World Cup match ever filmed also available on the platform by the time the competition starts.
“This is stuff that has never been seen before and it’ll be highlights, it’ll be localized commentary, it’ll be full games going back to the 1930s,” she said, adding that there should be around 2,000 hours of archives on FIFA+ by the World Cup.
Following the World Cup in Qatar, the next major focus is the FIFA Women’s World Cup taking place in Australia and July in the summer of 2023. Burr said that FIFA has a “fiduciary duty” to grow this area of the game, and says that FIFA+ will be the “market leading women’s football digital platform,” adding that it’s a gap that “nobody’s filling.”
Another significant focus for FIFA is with original programming, with an entire library of documentaries, behind the scenes, long form and short form feature films planned. On launch, a number of originals will be available, including a feature doc about former Brazil and Barcelona legend Ronaldinho, a docu-series about the world’s most decorated player Dani Alves, plus series about former World Cup Golden Boot winners, the biggest game-changer of the women’s game, footballing academies, World Cup captains and footballer hairdresser Sheldon Edwards.
“These will continue throughout this year and beyond and will only continue to build on that,” said FIFA’s James Marley, who added that they will be looking at various co-production models to generate further content. “We’re willing to work with with anybody who wants to tell compelling human interest stories around football.”
Live matches are also a significant part of the offering, with FIFA claiming that the equivalent of 40,000 live games — from 100 member associations and including 11,000 women’s matches — will be streaming each year. Due to existing TV and streaming rights agreements, these will be mostly limited to territories with lesser-known and underserved international leagues in countries such as Angola, Denmark, Mexico and Poland. In the latter territory extensive media rights do exist, but FIFA has been able to exploit the available digital rights.
“Our responsibility is to develop the game, so we’ve been looking at the competitions that need development,” said FIFA’s Dave Roberts, adding that the association had been talking to countries in the likes of Aruba and Brunei to stream their semi-professional and amateur leagues, and was also looking to fund games where there wasn’t currently a single TV camera. “We can give them that that added boost of providing a global audience.”
It should be noted that FIFA+ will not, however, be showing any live World Cup matches.
FIFA+ — which Roberts said had aims of hitting more than 200 unique users by the end of 2022 — will initially launch across all web and mobile devices, although Burr said that they would be “exploring distribution options” through other connected devices and would be having conversations with broadcast partners.