Of course, it’s not the prize Facebook had been gunning for. The social giant was among the bidders for the global streaming rights to the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football,” a deal won by Amazon, which is paying a reported $50 million to the league for the 11-game package.
Under the agreement with Facebook, the NFL is distributing three shows on the platform, produced by NFL Media with video content from its NFL Films production arm. They’re available in the U.S. via Facebook’s Watch video-aggregation tab, and to fans worldwide on the individual show pages.
NFL Game Recaps will provide official highlights from all 256 regular-season games each season, plus the playoffs and Super Bowls. The other two weekly shows are Sound FX, featuring on-the-field chatter and discussion of mic’d-up players and coaches; and NFL Turning Point, an analysis of key plays that affected the outcome of some of the week’s biggest games.
The NFL soft-launched the three shows on Facebook over the last two weeks, and they’ve already attracted a small following. NFL Game Recaps has 71,000 followers currently; Sound FX has 14,800, and NFL Turning Point has 4,700.
The NFL shows on Facebook are expected to include midroll advertising sold by the social-media company. The content the league is distributing on Facebook isn’t exclusive per se, but it’s “tailored specifically for the Facebook platform,” according to an NFL rep.
“We have millions of fans on Facebook, and they continue to demonstrate an incredible appetite for NFL content,” NFL Media COO Hans Schroeder said in a statement. The NFL’s official Facebook page has 16.6 million “likes” to date.
Added Dan Reed, Facebook’s head of global sports partnerships: “These full-game recaps and shows will deliver comprehensive coverage while enabling the active NFL fan communities on Facebook to watch and debate the top storylines from each week.”
The NFL joins the hundreds of shows on Facebook’s Watch (currently available only in the U.S.), its effort to drive up viewing of longer-form video — and help it sell premium video-ad inventory.
Sports has been a particular focus for Facebook, which has a deal with Major League Baseball for a free weekly game and has live-streamed pro soccer, surfing and other sports. Highlighting its hunger for live sports, Facebook had bid $600 million for rights to Indian Premier League cricket matches over five years; 21st Century Fox’s Star India won the IPL broadcast and streaming rights for $2.6 billion.