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Facebook Is Making Big Moves to Stake Its Claim In Live Sports

Business

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The social media giant wants to get its hands on more live sports content.

For sports fans, Mark Zuckerberg’s recent announcement about wanting meaningful interactions between Facebook users and being fine with users spending less time on the social platform he founded may ring hollow. This is because on the tails of that announcement Engadget reports that Facebook hired the former CEO of Discovery-owned TV network Eurosport, Peter Hutton, to expand the sites sports offerings.

If you have been closely watching Facebook’s attempts to become a sports broadcaster, this may not come as a surprise. According to Digiday, in the first six months of 2017, Facebook aired over 3,500 different live sports events. While these sports events run the gamut from American football to college lacrosse, Facebook has set its sites on soccer.

Facebook has already attempted to convince the media executives at the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) that streaming games on Facebook would expose the league to new fans in markets where the games aren’t telecast. However, Digiday reports that Facebook wanted the lucrative rights, which other broadcasters are charged a premium for free. Unsurprisingly, UEFA said declined the offer.

The UEFA offer came after Facebook’s unsuccessful bid for the rights to Indian Premier League’s cricket matches, which SportsPro reports received a much saner $600 million bid from Facebook. The online rights to the Indian Premier League’s game ended up going to another broadcaster.

So far, Facebook’s desire to add sports content to Facebook Watch has been limited to lower-tier sports and Major League Baseball teams that make local TV rights available to out of market broadcasts. This enables Facebook to stream geo-gated Chicago Cubs games to fans outside the Chicago metropolitan area.

Despite the initial struggles to acquire content, Facebook still wants to be the go-to place for the 650 million sports fans following their favorite teams and leagues as well as the over 200 million sports fans on Instagram.

The company’s desires and hiring of Hutton, who has to potential to successfully spearhead a more aggressive acquisition strategy, don’t match up with its insistence that it doesn’t want to take the place of TV networks that already broadcast sports. However, like all things Facebook says, you need to watch how the company’s actions line up with its executives’ words. Because Facebook’s bids for major sports coverage certainly appear to be Facebook’s attempts to cut into ESPN’s subscriber base and become further entrenched in sports fans lives.

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