Facebook won the rights to stream all 380 Premier League soccer matches per season from 2019 to 2022 in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, in a deal worth about £200 million ($264 million), The Times reports.
This is likely Facebook's highest profile sports streaming deal to date — the platform has previously streamed Major League Baseball (MLB) games and World Surf League (WSL) competitions among other sporting events — because the Premier League is the world's most watched sports league.
Facebook's acquisition of the Premier League rights represents how digital platforms are contributing to cord cutting by increasingly curating premium sports content that has historically only been available on linear TV.
Turning to digital platforms like Facebook can help the Premier League maximize viewership as consumers increasingly shun pay-TV. Premier League's typical pay-TV partners are reaching fewer viewers. During the last Premier League rights auction in 2015, UK pay-TV broadcasters Sky and BT paid a combined £5.1 billion ($6.9 billion) for the TV rights over three seasons. Average viewing for Sky's live TV channels in the UK fell 14% over the course of the 2016-2017 season, per The Drum.
Meanwhile, BT's subscriber base in February reportedly fell by thousands as the pay-TV provider raised its monthly prices. This means selling rights to global tech platforms on a per-region basis will likely be an important strategy to offset declining audiences in UK-based TV operators.
And consumers are only spending more time with the internet on platforms like Facebook. Globally, consumers will spend an estimated 221 minutes per day online in 2018, up 4% year-over-year, making it logical for players to forge these partnerships to take advantage of the increase in time consumers spend online. The Premier League believes targeting tech companies is the best way of securing future revenue growth, per The Times.
And so it has been shopping its rights around to a number of big tech platforms for deals similar to that with Facebook. In June, Amazon won the exclusive UK rights to broadcast 20 Premier League matches to Prime subscribers, and the league has also held talks with YouTube and Netflix over rights deals.
The Premier League deal also means Facebook can provide exclusive sports content to its biggest user base. Most of Facebook's users come from the APAC region, which accounted for about 40% of Facebook's Q1 2018 monthly active users (MAUs), compared to smaller shares from the US and Canada (11%) and Europe (17%).
And there's a good chance at least some of Facebook's APAC users will tune into the Premier League matches, given that 38% of the Premier League's viewers come from the Asia and Oceania region, per Southeast Asia Globe. Facebook hasn't inserted ads into any of its previous live sports broadcasts, but brands may still benefit from Facebook's Premier League streams. Ads elsewhere on Facebook might be exposed to more eyeballs from users that are drawn to the social platform for the Premier League streams.