Russian Premier Liga embraces YouTube memberships, eyes OTT platform

The Russian Premier Liga has stepped up its association with YouTube by announcing that it will become the first major sports league to use the video streaming service’s ‘memberships’ offering as the main distribution channel for its international rights.

The league said that it is also exploring the launch of its own over-the-top streaming platform.

The announcement with the Google-owned platform today (Monday) comes with the Liga, the top division of domestic club football, having streamed games to international audiences via YouTube since March last year.

YouTube memberships allow users to subscribe to specific channels for a monthly fee. The Liga said all eight RPL fixtures each matchday will be available to viewers outside Russia and the CIS in countries where ‘memberships’ is activated.

Two membership levels are being offered for viewers outside Russia. The first includes two matches with English commentary each match day and will cost a monthly fee of $2.99 (€2.70). The second level, for $4.99 a month, provides subscribers with access to all eight matches in Russian, along with two matches with English commentary.

The offering has been launched to take in the remainder of the 2019-20 season, with FC Rostov versus CSKA Moscow and Spartak Moscow against FC Krasnodar selected for English commentary next weekend.

All members will also receive access to a weekly match day review show in English. Highlights of all games will remain free to access.

Commenting on the new tie-up with Google, RPL marketing director Evgeny Savin said: “We believe this partnership with YouTube is an opportunity for RPL to reach our fans living outside of Russia, as well as expand the existing fan base around the world.”

Pavel Suvorov, commercial director of RPL, added: “Our partnership with Google is an up-and-coming project. We are looking into the promising prospect of launching our own OTT service or implementing it on the partner side for an international audience.

“Regarding this matter the agreement with Google is an important step in implementing our plans, researching audience preferences, its sensitivity to the pricing and extent of conversion.”

The YouTube announcement comes after the RPL last week signed a three-season title sponsorship agreement with financial services group Tinkoff, a deal that is set to have wide-ranging commercial benefits for the organisation and its clubs.

The contract spanning the 2019-20 to 2021-22 seasons has seen the competition rebranded as the Tinkoff Russian Premier Liga. The Tinkoff brand will be integrated into various sponsorship formats, including in television broadcasts, digital platforms and at stadia where games are held.