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Volume 21 No. 22
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Facebook in market for top-level executive who will broker sports rights deals

Facebook is looking for a top-level executive whose main responsibility will be to buy sports rights for the social media company.

Over the past several weeks, Facebook executives have been interviewing candidates for the position, which has been described as a head of sports programming. The executive will report to Dan Reed, Facebook’s global head of sports partnerships.

The executive will oversee a budget of about “a few billion dollars” to buy sports rights on a global basis, sources said.

The position is a potentially important one in the sports business, as the bulk of U.S. sports rights will be available early in the next decade. U.S. leagues, in particular, have been hoping that digital companies such as Facebook, Amazon and Twitter will be active bidders when their rights become available. The leagues hope that more bidders, especially the deep-pocketed digital ones, will equate to higher rights fees.

At least initially, Facebook has little interest in building out a production arm to produce these events on its own. Facebook is looking to partner with leagues or broadcasters, where Facebook will hold the streaming rights and someone else will hold the television rights. Facebook is looking for someone else to handle the production of the events, which is the strategy it has used for its MLB and Champions League streaming rights deals.

Facebook has been an active bidder for international sports rights. For example, it bid $600 million for streaming rights to Indian cricket. Star India won the rights — combined TV and streaming — for $2.55 billion.

Other digital media companies, including Amazon, have tried to bid for all of the media rights, not just the streaming rights. Amazon picked up tennis rights in the United Kingdom and has kicked the tires for Formula One rights in various European markets, sources said.

It’s clear that Facebook wants to build out the live sports part of the business. Whoever Facebook hires will oversee a team of about a half dozen other executives based around the world, and it is interviewing candidates for those positions. A source said the head job would be based either in New York or Facebook’s Silicon Valley headquarters.