Facebook, Fox Sports Partner to Live Stream UEFA Soccer

Facebook will begin to live-stream more than a dozen UEFA Champions League soccer matches in September via a partnership with Fox Sports. The deal includes double-headers during the group stage, four round of 16 games and four quarterfinal matches. With the Champions League, Facebook adds a high-profile event to its growing lineup of live sports. The social giant is betting that live sports, which draw viewers to comment on social media platforms, will also be appealing to advertisers. Twitter, for example, has already committed to all-day live video programming.

According to Bloomberg, Facebook “hasn’t sold advertising against the Champions League matches, but it could start by the time they begin.” The company is targeting soccer as “already the most-followed sport on the social network,” with 3.7 million users last year watching a charity match between Everton and Manchester United.

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Facebook also hosted 34 million people who had 98 million interactions related to “the Champions League final in which Cristiano Ronaldo’s Real Madrid beat Juventus of Italy.”

Fox Sports ordinarily places Champions League games on its Internet apps, but believes the new deal “will give the games a wider audience.” “There are more matches in English and Spanish than we have networks to air them on,” said Fox Sports executive David Nathanson. “Facebook has one of the most social soccer audiences on the web, and this is going to expose the Champions League to fans who aren’t tuning into a game on TV.”

From Facebook’s point of view, founder Mark Zuckerberg’s “video first” strategy was born out of success hosting video and “sharing advertising revenue with some companies that uploaded clips.”

“We’re excited to help Fox reach new audiences, people consuming content on digital, mobile and social,” said Facebook executive Dan Reed. “We’re bullish on soccer.”

In fact, Facebook has made earlier soccer deals, including one with Univision Communications to broadcast live games from Mexico’s “top soccer league,” and another deal with Univision and Major League Soccer “to stream live MLS games, as well as highlights and analysis programming around those games.” That is in addition to original programming that Fox Sports produces for Facebook, “including a weekly soccer show.”