While it’s not surprising that cable television’s stranglehold over sports programming is loosening, it’s taking a somewhat different form than some of us thought it might. Streaming services are growing, of course, and the idea of the Premier League being shown on YouTube isn’t an altogether impossible proposal.
The idea of Facebook becoming a leader in sports broadcasting is something of a swerve.
Last month Univision announced they would be streaming more than 40 Liga MX matches live on Facebook in a move to grow the audience and increase viewer engagement. There’s a lot to like about this— it reaches out to lower-income segments of their base audience who either can’t afford cable (and thus Univision Deportes) or don’t want to pay for it, while also lowering barriers for new viewers to see what the fuss is about.
Univision is clearly banking on this being a hit because they’re already announced their Phase 2. Major League Soccer
In an announcement made earlier today, the league and the broadcaster laid out plans to stream more than 20 matches in English throughout the season on Facebook. The streams, which will be produced and optimized for mobile users, will include “Facebook-specific commentators, interactive graphics, and fan Q&A and polling features allowing viewers to engage directly with commentators throughout matches.” The first outing comes on March 18th when Atlanta United hosts the Chicago Fire.
Univision Deportes president Juan Carlos Rodriguez says this is the logical next step in their plans to make full use of current social web platforms in order to capture new audiences.
”As the undisputed home of soccer in the US, Univision Deportes, together with MLS and Facebook, is committed to growing the sport across platforms and regardless of language. Further engaging the more than 18 million English-language viewers that have watched soccer on Univision coupled with the continued success of our MLS broadcasts, including our record-setting season opener, is a natural path in this new era of content consumption.”’
Dan Reed, head of Facebook’s global sports partnerships initiative, says that the social platform wants to try and capture the energy of the stadium fan experience online.
”Major League Soccer’s innovative approach to the fan experience has cultivated truly special in-stadium environments, where flag-waving and chant-singing fans come together to passionately support their clubs. We’re very excited for MLS and Univision Deportes to bring this same innovative, community-first spirit to the Facebook Live broadcasts of league matches this season. Their approach will provide fans with an entirely new way to experience a live soccer broadcast that is optimized for mobile screens and social viewing. So even if they’re not at the stadium, people can watch the game on Facebook with a great view of the action while interacting with a highly-engaged community of fans.”
As part of the deal, MLS will produce live matchday studio content before games, an expansion of their Matchday Live programming which debuted on opening weekend.