Facebook strikes content deals with NRL, AFL and Cricket Australia
Facebook, the social media giant, today struck content deals in Australia with three of the country's biggest sports bodies, rugby league's NRL, Australian Rules' football's AFL and Cricket Australia.
As part of the arrangements, the Facebook Watch live video platform will provide match highlights, weekly wrap-up shows and archive content from the NRL, with highlights from men's and women's matches, weekly studio and all-access shows and archive content offered from the AFL.
In cricket, there will be highlights from men's and women's matches, a content series and Facebook Live commentaries on match days.
Facebook broadcast all 36 matches from domestic Twenty20 cricket's Women’s Big Bash last season, and the agreement with Cricket Australia will extend that deal for the next campaign.
Joyee Biswas, Facebook’s head of sports partnerships for Asia-Pacific, said: "The intention is to provide the fans with more opportunities to interact with this content. But I wouldn’t say we are looking to compete with any television network or with any media platform. For us it’s about experimentation and about maximising the value of the content."
Will Easton, Facebook Australia managing director, added: "Each month 16 million Australians come together on the platform to connect and share with family and friends, and key sporting moments are regularly a focus of conversation."
NRL chief commercial officer, Andrew Abdo, said the Facebook deal was a "fantastic opportunity to extend our reach and product offering," while Julian Dunne, AFL’s head of content and distribution, said it was about ensuring the AFL reached all its fans.
The content partnerships come a week after Hugh Marks, chief executive of Nine Network, the Australian free-to-air commercial broadcaster, claimed that US technology giants posed no threat to the role of free-to-air and pay-TV broadcasters in showing top sports events in the foreseeable future.
Marks was speaking against a background of reports that executives from the AFL had travelled to USA to hold meetings with technology firms.
Despite individual acquisitions of sports rights by the likes of Facebook, Google and Twitter in various markets, Nine’s Marks told a media conference that any large-scale interventions to acquire top properties traditionally held in Australia by Foxtel, the pay-TV broadcaster, and various free-to-air networks are “just not going to happen, not in any near-term horizon.”
Kay Madati, vice-president and global head of content partnerships at Twitter, responded to Marks' comments, claiming Twitter is a “friend, not foe” of media companies and has no interest in competing with them for major sports rights.
He told the Australian Financial Review late last week: “The way that we’re approaching our business and our partnerships in the space is not to compete with rights holders. I don’t want to be a linear television broadcaster.
“We're here to make those events bigger by marrying the conversation that happens on our platform around those things. We’re here to actually come to them and say ‘we can make your event, your investment in this property that much bigger and that much better’.”
•New statistics released by Facebook today show that there are 720 million monthly visitors to Watch worldwide, of which 140 million engage in content for at least one minute, up from 400 million and 75 million, respectively, six months ago.
On average, those 140 million daily visitors spend more than 26 minutes on Watch every day, up from 20 minutes in December.
Facebook also revealed that more than 24 million people in Brazil and Spanish-speaking Latin America watched at least one minute of the 2018-19 Uefa Champions League campaign on Watch, while more than five million people watched at least a minute of the final between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur on 1 June.