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Facebook Watch, the social media giant’s video service, has featured a fast-increasing amount of sports content, including Major League Baseball games, ESPN studio shows like “First Take,” and the “Tom vs. Time” documentary series.
But some of Facebook’s deepest and most impactful work in sports to date has been in collaboration with Stadium, the multiplatform sports network formed last year by the merging of 120 Sports, Campus Insiders and the Sinclair Broadcast Group’s American Sports Network.
The Chicago-based Stadium and Facebook have collaborated through four separate agreements to stream more than 100 live events on Facebook Watch over the past year, including college basketball and football from Conference USA, the Mountain West, Atlantic 10 and West Coast conferences, high school football and basketball, college-level Olympic sports, studio shows and even poker programming.
That number is expected to increase significantly during the upcoming college sports seasons. It is being supplemented with Facebook and Stadium collectively working with various schools to create Facebook Groups as dedicated hubs for fans to build communities around their programs and events.
The relationship has evolved to where Stadium and Facebook were partners earlier this year in a three-way media rights bid with CBS Sports to gain exclusive football and basketball rights with Conference USA, providing a template that likely will be replicated in the future.
“This relationship has really allowed us to go a lot deeper into the college sports space, and it isn’t a small niche but rather a key part of a bigger strategy around sports and live video,” said Rob Shaw, Facebook sports partnerships lead for leagues and media.
While the year-old Stadium distributes its programming through a variety of other means, including its own digital platforms and network of over-the-air TV stations, the Facebook relationship represents by far its largest source of global reach.
“As a young company, we need those eyeballs, but it’s not really just about the raw audience,” said Adam Anshell, Stadium managing director of operations. “This relationship has generated a whole additional level of engagement to get people involved and talking.”
Last week’s bombshell report by former ESPN college football reporter Brett McMurphy on alleged domestic abuse involving a former Ohio State assistant football coach represented another layer in the Facebook-Stadium relationship. McMurphy’s initial report on Zach Smith, which led to Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer being placed on administrative leave, originally was published on Facebook. That report was followed by an exclusive Stadium video interview with Smith’s ex-wife, Courtney.
McMurphy later this month will join Stadium full time.