After making a big noise about their broadening video ambitions, Facebook’s video content push seems to have eased off a little in recent months. That, in part, would appear to be due to poorer performance of their Watch platform than expected – according to a report from Digiday, Facebook has struggled to monetize Watch content, with ad demand remaining low due to an overall lack of audience interest in the initial round of Watch-exclusive programming.
But Facebook’s hasn’t given up on its video push yet. This week, Facebook reached an agreement with Major League Baseball for exclusive rights to stream 25 afternoon games on the social network.
As per Bloomberg:
“It’s the first time a major U.S. league has agreed to show regular season games exclusively on Facebook, which has been building a portfolio of live sports. MLB owners unanimously approved the move, the league said. Neither MLB nor Facebook disclosed the financial terms, though people with knowledge of the matter put the price at $30 million to $35 million. They asked not to be identified because the terms are private.”
Indeed, the addition of MLB content will build on the other live sports deals Facebook already has in place with Liga MX (Mexican soccer league), World Surf League, UEFA Champions League and college football and basketball. Facebook’s live sports streams have been one of the big winners for the platform, so it makes sense for the company to make it more of a focus. In addition, Facebook was active in the bidding rights for NFL’s Thursday Night Football matches last year (which Amazon eventually won) and Indian cricket.
The confirmation of Facebook’s agreement to stream MLB also comes on the back of recent reports that The Social Network has been pitching advertisers on new deals which would enable them to feature their brands and logos on sports-related programming as part of new sponsorship deals, which could give Facebook and additional path for revenue. That would be in conjunction with any ad breaks Facebook might seek to insert, enabling brands to reach more targeted audiences through such streams.
In a broader context, the addition of MLB content is significant in that it will help Facebook boost viewership of their video content, and make it a more essential consideration for sports fans. Of course, the bigger bridge for Facebook to cross is still in giving users the capacity to more easily view its exclusive video content on their TV screens, which remains the preferred viewing method, despite the rise of mobile options.
Data from Netflix underlines this – the streaming service recently confirmed that 70% of its streams are viewed on connected TVs, instead of on phones, tablets or PCs. YouTube has also reported significant increases in TV-streaming in recent times.
The advantage both platforms have in this regard is that their direct-connection tools are easily available via dedicated apps on various TV-connected devices - notably via gaming consoles. Facebook does have options which enable similar, but they don’t have the same direct-connection capacity, as Facebook hasn’t broken out its video offering into its own app.
That could be set to change, however, with Facebook reportedly looking to launch its own smart home device later this year.
Such a device could include a TV connection component, which would make it much easier to watch Facebook exclusive content on your home TV set – Facebook hasn’t shared any specifics around this yet, but given the rising use of streaming content, and the trend of viewing such material as an alternative to regular TV (as opposed to a supplementary element viewed on other devices), it would make sense for Zuck and Co. to make this a focus, particularly given they’re spending so much on signing up exclusive content (the MLB deal alone is rumoured to have cost Facebook around $30 million)
For marketers, the shift towards more high profile video content is another advance in building a genuine TV alternative online, which could eventually enable more targeted, affordable TV advertising by using Facebook’s advanced ad targeting options. You might not be able to afford a TV ad campaign, but if you were able to target your ads to viewers of a specific sport, in a specific region, or specific age groups, viewers with related interests, etc.
That could make TV reach both more affordable and more responsive – and worth noting, TV advertising is still a $70 billion sector in the US alone.
There’s still a long way to go on this, Facebook has various bridges to cross, but the MLB deal shows that they’re not done yet. Facebook might have gone a little quiet on its video push, but you can expect to hear more noise on this throughout the year.