Facebook Acquiring Sports Content to Build Watch Viewership

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Facebook (FB) has been aggressive of late in its pursuit of global sports content, having recently announced deals with Golden Boy Promotions and Premier League (in Asia); the social network is also reportedly courting Cristiano Ronaldo for a reality show. The deal with Oscar De La Hoya’s boxing promotion, in collaboration with Kathy Duva’s Main Events, adds 5 live fight cards (1st is Aug. 11) to the Facebook Watch lineup. A $265 million agreement with the Premier League gives the company exclusive rights to broadcast 380 games in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos during the 2019-2020 season. The latest rumors focus on a 13 episode docu-series with the Portuguese futbol star; FB has reportedly offered Ronaldo $10 million+ to participate. Of course, Facebook also owns exclusive broadcast rights to 25 MLB games this season; the first non-traditional broadcaster to hold exclusive rights to a big 4 sport.

Howie Long-Short: Facebook Watch is the company’s video platform for TV-like content. The company’s increased focus on sports programming isn’t about generating ad dollars (there won’t be any ads on Golden Boy broadcasts), but about trying to boost viewership on its struggling Watch platform; Watch launched in August ’17 but has failed to gain a mainstream following.

Premier League is popular in Southeast Asia and Ronaldo is the most famous athlete on Facebook with 120 million followers, so those deals should certainly draw eyeballs. I’ll reserve judgement on the boxing deal until I see the financials, it remains a niche sport in the U.S.

Back in late April, Facebook reported Q1 ’18 earnings increased +62% YoY (to $1.69/share adjusted) on revenue that grew 49% (to $11.97 billion). Ad revenue (+50% YoY, avg. revenue per user was $5.53), operating margin (+5% YoY, to 46%) and usership (+13% YoY) also all rose during the quarter. The company is expected to report Q2 financials after the close on July 25th. Shares hit a 52-week high ($203.64) on Friday, closing at $203.23.

Fan Marino: Facebook has been making headlines with new content acquisitions, but Watch has received less than stellar reviews from sports fans. The MLB games airing on Watch have been drawing +/- 3 million views, but there is a large contingent of fans upset they’re being forced to stream the game (as opposed to watching it on TV).

Then there are the technical issues. World Surf League was forced to come out last week and apologize to fans who experienced “a slew of streaming issues” (including not being able to watch at all) that prevented them from watching the opening rounds of the Corona Open J-Bay. Facebook is the exclusive digital provider of all WSL events for 2018 and 2019. As we’ve discussed before, if your top priority is ensuring access to the game, television remains your best option.

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Author: John Wall Street

At the intersection of sports & finance.

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