Facebook Push to Secure Sports Streaming Rights in Emerging Markets

Live sports streaming has become something of a high-profile draw for many social media platforms as of late, with Twitter in particular seeking to cement itself a position as the leading source of to-the-minute sporting updates online. This has not gone unnoticed by Facebook, who have directly competed with Dorsey’s Twitter on numerous occasions as they each sought out the most lucrative broadcasting deals on offer. In this regard you could easily argue that Twitter have, on the whole, performed better, but that may change as Facebook continue to press forward into emerging markets.

One high-profile example of this was Facebook’s unsuccessful attempt to secure streaming rights for Indian Premier League (IPL) Cricket, which saw the social media giant losing out to 21st-Century-Fox-owned Star Media. While they walked out of those negotiations with nothing to show for it, India itself is still very much factored into their plans for the future.

Facebook’s most recent pitch in regards to sports streaming rights was made to the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), in which they tried to convince the governing body to allow them to stream Champions League matches in countries where they are not currently broadcast through TV or other legitimate media sources (such as throughout Africa and in countries such as India and Colombia). Somewhat bizarrely, they sought this permission for free, making no monetary offer to UEFA and instead insisting that such a deal would benefit both parties as it would grant the Champions League and Europa League tournaments a tremendous reach outside of Europe. UEFA were unconvinced, and swiftly declined Facebook’s offer.

The reasoning behind UEFA’s refusal is pretty clear-cut: they cannot be seen giving away rights for free when they have a premium product for which other broadcast partners pay substantial sums.
This ties into the ongoing argument regarding reach versus monetisation, and the perceived value of each.

“It is indeed good to be broadcast on Facebook in a market where the matches aren’t shown on TV,” said one source, as reported by Digiday UK. “But on the other hand, it could damage negotiations in the future with other TV channels.”

Despite their rejection at the hands of UEFA, Facebook’s ambition to beat their rivals to the punch and secure streaming/broadcasting deals for such content in emerging markets remains strong, bolstered by the bargaining power granted by their active user base of over 650 million individuals who currently follow a sports team, player, or related news outlet on the platform. It’s a similar story on Facebook-owned Instagram, which boasts 200 million of these sports-minded users.

Given the aforementioned figures, industry players such as Misha Sher, VP of sport and entertainment at MediaCom, have stated a belief that in the future, even the biggest games may air live and in full on Facebook. Speaking to Digiday UK, Sher asserted that, “Rights holders will need to consider the value that someone like Amazon or Facebook can bring to the table, and explore what types of models will work moving forward without undermining any existing broadcast agreements.”

It makes sense for Facebook to look towards emerging markets for this endeavour as the monetisation of videos on the platform remains something of an issue for them. However given the fact that 70% of their estimated 5 million advertisers are based outside of the US, they should perform better in these markets. Among the fastest-growing countries are India, Thailand, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina – none of which are set to broadcast Champions League Football on TV between 2018 and 2021; hence Facebook’s attempt to secure said rights from UEFA.

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