Jonathan Rodriguez (R) of Santos Laguna fights for the ball with Omar Mendoza of Cruz Azul during the 6th round match between Santos Laguna and Cruz Azul as part of the Torneo Clausura 2017 Liga MX at Corona Stadium on February 12, 2017 in Torreon, Mexico.
Facebook is shooting for a big year in live sports, making its mark on the fragmenting sports streaming industry.
Through a new partnership with Univision, Facebook will stream 46 games from Mexico’s top soccer league Liga MX to the network’s U.S. users, the companies announced Monday.
That’s just one sport and one league, but it’s a big deal for Facebook and it could be bad news for Twitter, Amazon and other streaming platforms. Facebook, approaching 2 billion monthly active users and on a quest to be the new TV, offers massive reach for videos.
Soccer is the most followed (via users liking Facebook Pages) sport on the platform, and it paves the way for more sports games to be broadcast. Live sports has been one of the most difficult industries for rights since the leagues have longstanding deals with television networks.
“Now Facebook represents the next wave of TV.”
“Now Facebook represents the next wave of TV and, given its scale, they are an ideal partner to distribute our Liga MX matches in English,” said Tonia OConnor, chief commercial officer and president of content distribution at Univision, in a statement.
For Univision, the deal allows the network to potentially reach new, younger audiences as well as experiment with social and mobile streaming and perhaps a new source of revenue. The stream will be available in English.
The games, which start Sunday and run through playoffs, will not feature ads at first. Facebook is currently experimenting with short ad breaks within live videos, where Facebook and its partners share the revenue. Terms of the deal with Univision were not disclosed.
Sports are inherently social, with the power to build and connect communities around the world. This aligns closely with our mission, and we feel Facebook is a natural home for sports content, including live games,” Dan Reed, Facebook’s head of global sports partnerships, said in a statement.
“We plan to bring fans more live games from a variety of sports in the Video tab, and will collaborate closely with our partners to do so in a way that supports their business goals,” Reed continued.
The game will be available in Facebook’s video tab to all users in the U.S. from the Facebook Page of Univision Deportes.
Facebook already has had some success with live sports games. More than 3.7 million people watched Wayne Rooney’s testimonial match between Manchester United and Everton while it was live. This summer, Facebook streamed nine U.S. basketball exhibition games. Facebook also has streamed smaller sports like table tennis and net ball.
Not every sports partnership for Facebook has made the biggest splash. Facebook released Sports Stadium, a live hub for sports content and score updates, with the Super Bowl in 2016. It chose not to do much with the feature this year. Live scores are still available on the app.
The latest deal intensifies the competition between Facebook and Twitter. Following two years of stagnation in user growth and little movement in revenue, Twitter has been reinventing itself by locking down live video partnerships, many of which are exclusive.
Twitter made its grand entrance into premium live video by scoring the rights to 10 of the National Football League’s Thursday night games, where it was up against Facebook and Amazon.
Twitter has since inked deals with the National Basketball Association for two original shows, the National Hockey League for weekly games, Major League Baseball for weekly games beginning this summer and the PGA Tour. Twitter also streams college sports with Campus Insider and Pac-12 networks and has streamed the Melbourne Cup (a horse race in Australia).
Facebook’s deal with Univision is not exclusive, however, and could mean other networks are vying for a similar deal. Twitter declined to comment. Meanwhile, Twitter continues to be a place for sports conversations especially from the leagues and players themselves.
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