Facebook has continued its recent run of sports deal-making, signing a one-year pact with ESPN that will bring dedicated versions of some of the network’s most popular studio shows to the social media giant.
Following Facebook’s recent deal with the National Football League, the ESPN agreement involves streaming exclusive versions of popular non-game programs such as College Game Day, Fantasy Focus Live, and Always Late with Katie Nolan on the Facebook Watch video service.
Like other Facebook Watch programming, the ESPN programs on the platform will contain of interactive features including Watch Parties, polls, and question-and-answer sessions with show talent.
“This is another big chance for us to premium-level content onto the platform,” said Rob Show, Facebook head of league and media sports partnerships. “The goal for us to work not only with the leagues with premium intellectual property, but also the best storytellers and broadcasters, and this fits squarely in that goal.”
ESPN has increasingly sought ways to extend its content onto various social media platforms, including Snapchat, and Twitter. In addition to potentially reaching different viewers than those subscribing to traditional cable and satellite TV packages, the social media initiatives such as this one with Facebook are designed to extend the pre-show and post-show windows for the studio shows.
“How all these content pieces fit together, along with what we’re doing on our own platforms, is something we think about every day,” said Ryan Spoon, ESPN senior vice-president, digital and social content. “Facebook brings in an enormous audience, and this allows us to keep experimenting as we look to figure what works best on each individual platform, and how we drive the most engagement on each.”
ESPN in August, meanwhile, retained its typical spot as the No. 1 digital sports property in the US, according to multiplatform figures from third-party measurement firm comScore. ESPN drew 89 million unique US visitors during the month to its in-house digital platforms.