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January 25, 2016

Facebook Sports Stadium: Threat or Treat?

by Carlo De Marchis

Let’s analyse what could be the impact in the sport media ecosystem of the just announced Facebook Sports Stadium initiative.
Facebook Sports Stadium

What is it?

You can read the original announcement by product manager Steve Kafka here:
Introducing the Facebook Sports Stadium

“With Facebook Sports, all the content on Facebook related to the game is in one place, and it comes in real time and appears chronologically. You can see:

  • Posts from your friends, and their comments on plays
  • Posts and commentary from experts, like teams, leagues and journalists, with easy access to their Pages
  • Live scores, stats and a play-by-play
  • Game info, like where to find the game on TV”

It’s another step in Facebook’s strategy to keep users always on its platform, by creating native experiences, following the Instant Article initiative which provides better content and performances for publishers without leaving the app on mobile devices.

There are some unclear points at the moment which may change the impact of this solution in the market.
It is unclear for now:

  • What kind of partnership, if any, Facebook will enable with publishers, rights-owners and brands
  • How Facebook will decide what type of content will be seen on those experiences; what they call “experts, like teams, leagues and journalists”
  • Who will provide the data for the live coverage. Will it be an agreement with the official federations and leagues?
  • Which sports will Facebook cover going forward
  • Will it be a national delivery territory by territory?
  • Will also localisation of language and influencers be considered

Facebook Sports Stadium is also solving a big problem in the social network’s timeline experience.
And the presence of the term chronologically is key here.

“All the content on Facebook related to the game is in one place, and it comes in real time and appears chronologically”.

Nonlinearity in the coverage of sporting events on Facebook was a major issue I did highlight last year in a conference in Geneva to Facebook people. Until now, if, say, a football match ends 3–1 and the best and most notable and commented goal is the first one of the winning team, you will find first in your Facebook timeline the 1–1 goal — which is basically telling you that your team has tied a match which is obviously totally inaccurate at that point in time.

Facebook content optimisation can not, for now, recognise the need for certain score-based content to be surfaced in chronological order.

Threat?

Instinctively I do see a potential threat for many other players in the sport media business and it seems I am not alone.

The US media has identified ESPN and Twitter as the main targets/victims of the potential success of this initiative.

So, going more in detail, if we look at who can be threatened by this in the sport media ecosystem we should include:

  • Other social platforms: Twitter etc… as explained in the article linked above
  • Global sports digital platforms: ESPN idem
  • Federations, leagues digital properties (rights-owners): NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, FIFA, UEFA… — Their own digital properties for direct to consumers engagement may lose relevance and so their appeal for digital advertising and sponsorship. Also, what control will they have in how their sport is represented and how accurately data are shown?
  • Rights-holders media companies/broadcasters: NBC, FOX, SKY, BT Sport… — How can they impact and control this out-of-band second screen experience, if really adopted, in terms of advertisement monetisation? Which broadcaster will be included in each territory? The one who bought the rights or the one which has a media partnership with Facebook?
  • Brands/sponsors: Nike, Adidas, Coca-Cola, Samsung — how will their already spent sponsorship money get value from this? How will they be exclusive if they are sponsors?
  • Fans: this may reduce the diversity of voices and access to alternative content. Reducing thus the creativity that enables so many innovations in this area
  • Suppliers of sports digital solutions: deltatre… — who needs specialised match centres and second screen apps anymore when you have Facebook Sports Stadium? We have all tried to create something similar until now, but we are not Facebook.

Also, not quite great that Facebook will probably define themselves who is considered an expert and so included into the Sports Stadium.

Treat

Now move on the treat side of things: in which sense this can also be an opportunity and for whom.

In general it may become a global destination for sport and a truly adopted second screen experience which will only increase sport content consumption overall and push Facebook pages traffic for those directly involved.

It may open up new partnership opportunities and a different way to advertise for brands

  • Fans: this can be quite a seamless and highly social experience without having to install other apps or looking else where — all in one place experience and mixing the official voices and their friends community
  • Rights-owners, rights-holders, teams, clubs, athletes: their official voice will be present and relevant; traffic to their Facebook pages will increase
  • Brands: they will have a new channel for direct user engagement, unclear exactly how for now
  • Suppliers: Facebook content production services will be more relevant, Facebook may not want to manage all the data for each sport by themselves and may look for data and technical partners or buy in the sector

Conclusions

The Super Bowl 50 will be a first test of the solution in the US and we will see if Facebook will expand its Sports Stadium to the Olympic Games (good luck with ODF by the way).

Can this dominate the market? Or will it become another additional “platform” on which to focus our efforts to make sport more entertaining?

When YouTube introduced free live streaming we initially thought “Ok, that’s it, all rights-owners will just use that for live sport, there will be only one streaming platform going forward”.
This clearly did not happen.

Fans will decide its success.

The ecosystem will react quite reasonably both in a defensive way and embracing this as a partnership opportunity.

I will monitor this constantly ;).

The good news is that Sport is more and more content no. 1.
Facebook may need to hire a lot more sport media experts worldwide.

Will Facebook make this an embeddable component for others to include in their webs and apps?

What if you put the live stream of the match on top?



About the author

Carlo De Marchis
Chief Product & Marketing Officer

Carlo De Marchis aka cdm is the Group Chief Product & Marketing Officer, responsible for Strategic Product and Technical guidance, active in Business Development and Strategic Clients sponsor.

Innovator, challenger, visionary, curious, passionate, assertive, early-adopter.

Known for his fanatical user-perspective attention to the quality and usability of what deltatre delivers to clients and end-users. He has started to work for deltatre in 1988 and has participated to every step of its impressive growth. An early adopter of the web, since 1994, he is now driving the company efforts around social media and multi-platform digital solutions introducing the Holistic User Experience concept.

Has experienced the highest level sport events worldwide under different point of views and has lately been focusing on the deltatre’s Olympic efforts.

He lately focused on achieving wider business culture attending an Executive MBA and various other higher education opportunities with HBS and FIU.

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