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Facebook's Vice President of Partnerships Dan Rose has confirmed the social media network is bidding for the rights to NFL's Thursday Night Football package starting next season. The move highlights the social media giant's growing emphasis on engaging, live streaming content and sports.
"We'll see," Rose told Variety, in reference to Facebook's bidding war against other tech heavyweights including Amazon and Verizon, who are also in the running for the rights to live stream the Thursday games, according to industry sources.
If successful, Rose said the Menlo Park company will be interested in offering additional content before, during or after games in the locker room, behind the scenes or on the field in order to enhance user experience.
"There's a lot of interesting things we can do with sports," Rose said. "If you think about how people engage on Facebook today, it's not really around watching three hours of video."
After the launch of Facebook Live technology in 2015 to challenge rivals like Twitter's Periscope, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been "obsessed" with making live-streaming a success. Since then, the company has moved live videos higher up on people's news feeds. It has also reached out to Hollywood agents to bring in celebrities and offer to pay talent "to commit to regular broadcasts" as well.
"We're talking to a lot of folks about live," Rose said. "There are a ton of types of content that can fit under this format."
In January, Facebook launched its Sports Stadium Feature that allows users to track real-time updates on sports events, live commentary from experts, game info and posts from your Facebook friends about the game. Since users already take to social media to voice their opinions, jabs and updates while watching any live game across the sports spectrum, access to live streaming could be a major boon for the social media network to enhance the sports-watching experience for users.
In 2015, Yahoo paid $20m (£14.1m) to live-stream the game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills in 2015, attracting a whopping 33.6 million total views. Last month, CBS and NBC agreed to pay about $450m combined each year for the next two years to air Thursday Night Football on TV.
According to Rose, users watch live broadcasts three times longer than recorded videos which garnered an average of eight billion views per day in 2015.
"Our message to the industry, to the folks we partner with, is you now have a production studio in your pocket – and a way to reach an audience that's new and different," said Rose. "It's unscripted, it's authentic and it's interactive."
The NFL reported on February 1 that the digital package winner would be announced "in the near future".