It was a scene straight out of a Hollywood blockbuster film launch. The red carpet was laid. Attendees dressed to the nines strolled up and into Barcelona’s historic Gran Teatre del Liceu Opera House on November 28. Outside, throngs of fans cheered. Inside, some of the biggest names in soccer history — Leo Messi, Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez — came to life on the silver screen.

Celebrities, stars and socialites gathered in the Catalan capital for the world premiere of a documentary series consisting of eight 45-minute long episodes ⁠— Matchday: Inside FC Barcelona. Matchday is a creation of Barca Studios, FC Barcelona’s production house, produced ​​in collaboration with Rakuten in association with Rakuten H Collective Studio, Kosmos Studios and Producciones del Barrio.

The series details Barca’s 2018-2019 season, on and off the field. The English version is narrated by critically acclaimed actor John Malkovich and features intimate insights into the lives of top players including Messi, Pique, Ter Stegen and Suarez.

Fans living in Europe or Japan can watch it here for free.

A new way of reaching fans: From the pitch to backyard BBQs

Rakuten TV is showing the series in Europe and Japan free of charge, supported by advertising. Broadcasts will follow in the rest of Asia and the United States. “This series represents a new model for advertising-supported streaming that we are pioneering in Europe,” said Rakuten TV CEO Jacinto Roca at the launch, predicting that “it will reach 60 million viewers in Europe and Asia.”

For the legendary club, the series represents a new way of reaching fans. At the opening ceremony, Barca board member and digital pioneer Didac Lee pointed out that the documentary format offered a vastly different point of view from the 90 minutes of a match. The first episode, which aired at the premiere, focuses on the 2018 El Classico match against Barca rival Real Madrid, which the Blaugrana won 5-1.

The action doesn’t stop on the pitch: Pique appears at home eating a pregame meal with his parents and chatting by video with his children who are in Buenos Aires with their mother, international Latin pop star Shakira. Messi and Suarez prepare a barbecue at Suarez’s home. The series also takes viewers where no match ever could ⁠— into the everyday lives of some of the biggest names in soccer.