The Second Screen Might Need to Be the First Screen for NWSL, for Now…

NWSL continued to make history heading into Week 3 of their historic 4th season by soaking up some light both under the sunny Florida skies in Orlando with a new league record of 23,403 and also by soaking up the underutilized and ripe-for-the-picking Facebook Live market in the social media giant’s first live-streamed professional sports match.

It’s a shame networks have yet to ink a deal broadcasting more than 3 regular-season matches because most fans and interested potentials are left to either watch a live stream or watch all NWSL YouTube videos the next day in case, like many, you’re watching USL or MLS matches which consistently overlap in scheduling.

Orlando Pride, the newest NWSL team and an MLS-backed one at that, and Alex Morgan decided to do something about the lack of coverage during their home opener last Sunday. Both halves were streamed live on the USWNT star’s Facebook page, each as a separate post. The first half received over 292,000 views, the second over 361,000 views. Couple that with its lifetime availability and it’s a marketing coup for enticing curious potential new fans who happen upon it days later.

Not only are women competing for airtime, but they’re at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to being an attractve option for general soccer fans. With just ten teams it’s been a struggle to spread out the stars of internationaly-acclaimed USWNT, but the newest links with Facebook are a lucrative option, far better than anything the league’s own YouTube page has done alone so far. For comparison, Orlando’s opening match has been viewed now 80,000 times on the league page. NWSL’s YouTube page has just over 46,000 subscibers as opposed to Morgan’s Facebook page which is flexing with over 2.7 million.

“Not everyone can do what Orlando did overnight, but we are showing that is is attractive to come to the US to play. And we are also showing that it is about the pride of a city and the community leaders. It is certainly a blueprint for others to follow.” – NWSL Commissioner, Jeff Plush. Orlando wasn’t one of the chosen 6 teams to be broadcasted by Fox this season. Those 3 regular-season games that will be broadcast are: FC Kansas City at Chicago Red Stars, 8:00 p.m., Sept. 7; Western New York Flash at Portland Thorns FC, 9:30 p.m., Sept. 11; and Seattle Reign FC at Houston Dash, 9:30 p.m., Sept. 25. That means there’s a bit of a wait for us all, even with the Olympics in between, and that means there’s a tremendous opportunity for social networks to leap into the race now.

Just think of the untapped power behind Morgan’s US teammates’ Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages and fathom the investment opportunity for Twitter or Facebook to reach a deal with any of them or the league to continually livestream matches weekly. Like most opportunities on the women’s side of the beautiful game (i.e. – fielding a team in the WWC, building infrastructure for a competitive women’s league), it takes relatively little to build tremendous profit from it for sponsors and networks when compared to the men’s side.

There’s still a huge gap between cities like Orlando and Portland where the women’s game is supported and heavily marketed by the general soccer community and their corresponding MLS teams who can afford to lend assistance with cross-promotional marketing and comnunity outreach events. Although there’s only one Alex Morgan, what the women’s side has across the board now is a fervent supporter base, a growing curiosity from crossover fans, a huge opportunity for investment in the second screen (which for NWSL is really the first screen) and the existing attention of the media. All they need now is a concerted call to action to fans which all USWNT players (see allocation list below) could bring to NWSL on their own terms. A win for a few could translate to a win for many, and eventually a win for all girls and women aspiring to play for equal (or for many, at least enough to not have to work a second job) pay.

 

* 2016 allocation list:

Portland Thorns FC

Tobin Heath (USA)

Lindsey Horan (USA)

Meghan Klingenberg (USA)

Emily Sonnett (USA)*

Boston Breakers

Whitney Engen (USA)

Chicago Red Stars

Julie Johnston (USA)

Alyssa Naeher (USA)

Christen Press (USA)

Houston Dash

Morgan Brian (USA)

Carli Lloyd (USA)

FC Kansas City

Sydney Leroux (USA)

Heather O’Reilly (USA)

Amy Rodriguez (USA)

Becky Sauerbrunn (USA)

Orlando Pride

Ashlyn Harris (USA)

Alex Morgan (USA)

Seattle Reign FC

Megan Rapinoe (USA)

Hope Solo (USA)

Sky Blue FC

Kelley O’Hara (USA)

Christie Rampone (USA)

Washington Spirit

Crystal Dunn (USA)

Ali Krieger (USA)

Western New York Flash

Jaelene Hinkle (USA)

Samantha Mewis (USA)

 

feature image photo: Kristen Edmonds (#12) jumps into the arms of Lianne Sanderson (#10) as Maddy Evans cheers in background (far left) as time expires on their win over the Houston Dash at Orlando Pride inaugural home opener, at the Orlando Citrus Bowl, Saturday, April 23, 2016. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel) B585485512Z.1

*correction on April 30, 2016 7:30pm P.T.

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