After its first sports-related streams went live early last year, focusing on soccer and hockey, Facebook this week has made inroads into two new categories that will bring fans of eSports and baseball both live and on-demand content (via The Wall Street Journal).
Facebook already had deals with five eSports teams who published live and on-demand videos to the platform, but this week the company made a bigger deal with ESL, originally known as the Electronic Sports League, an organizer of eSports competitions. For those unfamiliar, eSports coverage follows players throughout a variety of competitive-focused video games, most popularly including titles like StarCraft II, Counter-Strike, League of Legends, and Overwatch, among others.
In a blog post announcing the deal, ESL confirmed that fans will be able to watch all IEM and ESL One events in up to six different languages, and a few national championship and online leagues, on ESL Facebook pages. The partnership is also bringing an exclusive new weekly show to Facebook that will allow viewers to comment and interact with the video stream while "highlighting up and coming players."
In total there will be 30 hours of weekly ESEA Rank S streams, a weekly half hour show hosted by Mark “Boq” Wilson, and more coming down the line. The broadcasts will start in June with the Counter-Strike-focused Rank S matches, and eventually grow to include videos of player interviews, competition commentary, and more all streamed on Facebook.
Currently, the most popular destinations for ESL-backed matches are Twitch and YouTube. Notably, the deal with Facebook is said to not interfere with ESL posting and streaming on other platforms simultaneously. Still, Facebook is said to be looking to build an "ecosystem" of game streams that convince gamers to tune into the social network over its live streaming rivals.
Facebook Inc. is paying professional videogame teams and others in the esports industry to post videos on the social network, part of a shift in strategy to deliver more-premium programming to the company’s nearly two billion monthly users.
Under the deals signed with Facebook, esports partners must produce a minimum number of hours of video for the social network, and in most cases the partners are allowed to simultaneously publish to rival platforms such as Amazon.com Inc.’s Twitch. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
In addition, Facebook and Major League Baseball have announced a deal of their own that will bring 20 live-streamed Friday night MLB games to Facebook during the 2017 season, located on MLB's Facebook page. The games will be free for any United States-based Facebook user, and the first game will broadcast tonight, May 19, with the Colorado Rockies and Cincinnati Reds facing off.
Facebook has long been pushing into video content, from setting the groundwork by testing autoplay videos with sound in its mobile app, to most recently gearing up to debut original TV shows directly within the social network. Over time, Facebook's move to more "premium" video content is said to gradually gain precedence over live and recorded video from users.
People scrolling through Facebook’s news feed are more likely to watch polished videos with audio turned on, making them potentially lucrative vehicles for ads, analysts say. Such content increasingly will appear in news feeds over off-the-cuff live videos from users, as Facebook wants to be seen as a hub for long-form video.
Streaming and on-demand video is becoming an area of interest for other social networks besides Facebook, with Snapchat recently being rumored to launch a collection of 3-5 minute TV shows within its mobile app. Twitter has been the home of sports, news, and entertainment video streams for a while now, and most recently revealed plans to launch a full, always-on network of news shows in partnership with Bloomberg.