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Reed: Facebook in collaborative role with broadcasters, rights holders

Reed: Facebook in collaborative role with broadcasters, rights holders

By John Ourand, Staff Writer

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PhotoS by: GETTY IMAGES (2)
Since launching its Watch platform in August, Facebook has become more aggressive in the sports market, and its executives have been touting its business strength to TV networks and rights holders alike.

One of Facebook’s success stories is MLB, where it streamed 20 regular-season games this season. The streams allowed MLB to target the Facebook users who watched those games with ads in their news feed. The ads also went to people who like MLB team pages.

The result: In the three weeks from Aug. 30 to Sept. 20, those ads led to “hundreds of additional MLB.TV subscriptions sold,” Facebook executives said.

Facebook has a similar story to tell with its “Ball in the Family” reality series about LaVar Ball’s family. The series debuted on Facebook Watch last month, giving Ball’s Big Baller Brand a list of viewers where it could send targeted Facebook ads.

Facebook credited those ads for a 10 percent lift in Big Baller Brand merchandise sales.

“We provide the global reach and the ability to generate new fans and create fans for life, like traditional free-to-air models,” said Dan Reed, Facebook’s head of global sports partnerships. “But we also provide deep and valuable audience insights and data. It’s a versatile model.”

SportsBusiness Journal media writer John Ourand spoke with Reed about his company’s strategy with sports.


Should TV networks view you as a competitor or a partner?

 REED:
We look to collaborate with both broadcasters and rights holders wherever possible. You’ve seen that in our partnerships with Fox Sports and Univision. You’ll continue to see that. You’ll also see situations where we’re partnering directly with a league or rights holder, like with MLB or the World Surf League.

Why should a TV network do a deal with you?

 REED:
The opportunity is to use Facebook as complementary distribution for games where it doesn’t really have room on your pay-TV channels. Look at the partnership we have with Fox around the Champions League. We are distributing, via Fox’s page on Facebook, the third-pick Champions League match. The first pick is on FS1, the second pick is on FS2, the third pick is distributed via Fox on Facebook. The value here is that you’re reaching more people than you would have otherwise. This is complementary distribution, and you’re able to grow your audience and leverage all those tools.

Which league is using Facebook well?

REED:
One example to highlight here is CrossFit, which for years has learned how to distribute content on Facebook really well. They’ve been aggressive in distributing video. They’ve built a passionate community of CrossFitters. We signed a partnership to start broadcasting CrossFit events. Because CrossFit has built up its community on our platform, the results have been fantastic. When we hosted the CrossFit Games over four days in August, more than 10.8 million people watched over a four-day span.

What is your pitch to these leagues?

REED:
Some properties view us as primary distribution to maximize their global reach in a digital world. Around 8 million people have watched the World Surf League on Facebook since July. We had FC Barcelona broadcast their legends match — retired players — versus Real Madrid. We have over 5 million people watching that match on Facebook globally. We’ve seen snooker, netball, Indian women’s soccer and everything in between leverage this platform to maximize their reach and drive more global distribution as part of their business model.

How do they make money?

REED:
In certain cases, we have a paid partnership with broadcasters or rights holders. In other cases, partners use other ways to monetize. That can be with branded content where they incorporate a sponsor into the broadcast and keep 100 percent of the revenue. Or they can convert viewers of the broadcast into another revenue stream for them. If you build an audience of viewers who watched the broadcast, you can remarket to them on Facebook to sell anything you want: tickets, merchandise or tune-in.

Why is Facebook interested in sports?

 REED:
Sports is content that brings people together. It’s inherently tribal. That’s good for Facebook. The goal with Watch is to create a new type of viewing experience on Facebook. We think sports is a great fit for that platform, as well. Think about types of content that are longer form and episodic, that combine engaging video with engaging community and also drives large and passionate audiences. Sports rises near the top of any list.

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