Facebook Calls Blitz on Twitter with Live ‘Sports Stadium’ Hub

'Second screen' TV feature launches after Facebook strikes Nielsen deal for social television ratings

Facebook is bum-rushing Twitter’s position in real-time TV sports chatter.

The social giant has launched Facebook Sports Stadium, a dedicated section that lets users follow play-by-play commentary and video clips for sporting events. It’s initially available for U.S. football games — in time for the NFL conference championships this weekend and Super Bowl 50 — and will also support other sports including basketball and soccer. Sports Stadium is available now for Facebook’s iPhone app in the U.S., set to expand to other platforms in the next few weeks.

Facebook is not launching Sports Stadium in partnership with leagues or media companies per se; instead, the hub aggregates videos and updates from existing partners.

“This is Facebook turning up the heat on Twitter,” said Gareth Capon, CEO of Grabyo, a U.K.-based distributor of social video. “The real-time nature of Twitter is the key appealing factor for sports fans and has underpinned its lucrative partnership with rights owners and advertisers. This move by Facebook… will make it more compelling to users and rights owners alike.”

Facebook’s rollout of Sports Stadium comes on the heels of its pact with Nielsen, which will incorporate data from conversations about TV shows on the social service into its “Social Content Ratings” to augment its existing deal with Twitter.

Facebook claims 650 million of its 1.5 billion-plus monthly global users are sports fans.

“We’ve built a place devoted to sports so you can get the feeling you’re watching the game with your friends even when you aren’t together,” Facebook product manager Steve Kafka wrote in a blog post announcing the feature.

Facebook Sports Stadium will display, in chronological order, posts from friends and their comments on plays; commentary from teams, leagues and journalists; live scores and stats; and game info including where to find the game on TV. Users can like, comment on and share individual plays and see most-commented-on . “It’s a second-screen experience that we hope makes watching the broadcast even better,” Kafka wrote.

Users will be able to find Facebook Sports Stadium by searching for a game, “and we’ll surface new ways to get there as the product evolves,” Kafka added.

In late 2013, Facebook acquired SportStream, a small startup that aggregated and analyzed sports-related social conversations and content in real time.

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