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In 2021, watching an NFL football game might be very different than it is today. Currently, if you want to watch an NFL game, you tune in to CBS or FOX on Sundays, ESPN on Mondays, and NBC on Sunday nights. However, in 2021, live NFL game rights for Monday Night Football are going to be up for grabs, followed by Sunday Night Football and the Sunday NFL packages in 2022. And guess who’s emerging as a potential bidder? That’s right – Facebook. Instead of using Facebook as your “second screen” during a game, you’d be watching games directly within the Facebook experience.
Challenges facing Facebook
On the surface, this might sound like a ridiculous proposition. The major networks and ESPN have a near-monopoly on TV broadcasters for NFL action, and most people automatically tune into network TV for the pre-game and post-game wrap-ups. They might even be familiar with some of the sideline reporters offering in-game injury updates, or the analysts providing color commentary. But, quick, name a Facebook TV sports personality… Who, exactly, would actually be the face and voice of these Facebook NFL broadcasts?
While Facebook has made inroads into other sports – especially MLB baseball and college sports – it has no major footprint in NFL football. Yes, Facebook has partnered with the NFL on content-sharing deals since 2017, but it’s hard to imagine watching a full NFL game solely via Facebook on your smartphone or tablet rather than on a TV.
Facebook and the allure of a global audience
But here’s the thing – the NFL is always looking for ways to broaden its audience, expose the NFL “product” to younger demographics, and to take the NFL experience to different countries. Take, for example, the fact that NFL teams now play in cities like London and Mexico City – it’s all part of extending the brand.
And that’s where Facebook enters the picture – the social network has more than 2 billion users around the globe. Imagine getting tens or even hundreds of millions of people in Europe, Asia or South America to tune in to a game every Sunday. And imagine getting the video game-obsessed younger generation to care as much about football as they do about the latest fast-action video game.
Imagining the NFL on Facebook
So how would the “NFL on Facebook” work? Since Facebook does not have a lot of expertise producing live sporting events, it would need to find some content and production partners. Most likely, the live NFL content would be earmarked for its Facebook Watch video on-demand service, which has been building up its library of original content programming. So, as an intro to the latest “Facebook NFL game of the week,” you might get a marketing push for a Facebook Watch show like “Huda Boss” or “Five Points.”
And, during the game, too, you might get much more of a Facebook flavor to the play-by-play calling. Instead of interesting factoids like “he ran a 4.4 40 at the scouting combine this spring,” you might get factoids like, “he recently posted a photo of his pre-game workout meal on Facebook.” Instead of the team starters proudly announcing which college they attended (“the Ohio State University”), the screen might simply flash the Facebook page of the university and invite viewers to like the page.
Live content is a perfect match for social media
When it comes to online content, the most valuable entertainment has always been live content. So it’s perhaps no surprise that Facebook would theoretically be interested in live NFL content. Football has always been a shared viewing experience – especially big games like the Super Bowl – so it makes sense that a social media giant would have something to say about the way people watch football. One thing is certain – it will be interesting to see what happens in 2021 when the first broadcasting rights go up for sale. Facebook, are you ready for some football, a Monday night party?