BARCELONA, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 15: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona celebrates after scoring his team’s third goal during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Levante UD at Camp Nou on February 15, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Barcelona and Real Madrid routinely rank among the richest and most successful clubs in all of world sports.  They’re both in the Top 5 of the highest payrolls and have the five most expensive players in world football.  They continually dominante La Liga, winning 54 titles combined and nine out of the last ten.  (Atletico Madrid broke the streak last season.)  It seems like most of the top names in the sport, Messi, Ronaldo, Suarez, Neymar, Bale, and Rodriguez just to name a few, play for these two clubs.

One of the biggest reasons is the massive television revenue made by the two clubs.  Unlike in other European soccer leagues or American sports leagues, La Liga allows the individual teams to make their own money from their own television deals.  That means there is a massive disparity in what Barcelona and Real Madrid can bring in versus the others in the league.  Just how great is the disparity?  Barca and Real make almost 100 million Euros more than the next team, Valencia, who ranks third on the list.

Here’s a helpful chart that explains the wide gap and how it relates to the other top European leagues:

In their newest television deal for the 2015-2016 season Barcelona will make a staggering 140 million Euros, or almost $160 million, via World Soccer Talk:

Earlier today, Barcelona announced they have broken off an eight-year relationship with the Catalan-based multimedia company, Mediapro, and have signed a one-year television deal with Telefónica reportedly worth £104 million (140 million euros).

Telefónica is Spain’s largest telephone company and the third biggest operator in the world with divisions in Europe, Asia, North America and South America.

The company will hold the television rights for Barcelona’s matches for the entirety of the 2015-16 campaign, and will also be responsible for running the club’s official TV channel, Barca TV.
Real Madrid, as well as the majority of the clubs in La Liga, have deals in place with Mediapro; but some teams have recently switched to Telefónica.

$160 million.  For one team!  To put that in perspective, MLS’s new contract with Fox, ESPN, and Univision earns the league $90 million in combined rights fees.

Let that soak in.  Barcelona makes almost twice as much in television rights fees as the entirety of MLS does.

And for MLS, even the jump to $90 million was a big deal that could change the landscape moving forward for the league in a positive direction.  In the new contracts with Fox/ESPN/Univision, MLS will receive a 400% increase in rights fees.  More television money means not just financial stability for MLS, it means more for player salaries and hopefully more top players either staying in or coming to MLS.  That’s great news for the league.  But more money also leads to more problems.  I think a noted philosopher said that once.  The increased television revenue will certainly be a factor in the current labor strife.

Back in Spain, television revenue is also a contentious issue and the clubs finally appear ready to act to find a more equitable dispersal of rights fees.  Other La Liga clubs have been lobbying for government intervention to bring more competitive balance to the league via a more equal distribution of television revenue.  That may finally be the case after next season as both Real Madrid and Barcelona have agreed in principal to a system where no team could earn more than four times another.

These are just two examples of a growing reality in sports – television revenue is everything.  For American soccer, it means a solid foundation to continue to grow MLS to the next level.  But as these numbers indicate, the league still has a long way to go to compete with other top leagues, and even individual clubs, around the world.

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