Facebook Inc is launching Facebook Sports Stadium, a new hub that is poised to take on Twitter and ESPN as the Super Bowl approaches.
Sports fans will be able to get live stats, follow games, and view comments from friends, experts, and players all in one place. The new feature will roll out over the next few weeks. It will initially be offered to iOS users in the U.S. for football games before being joined by other sports and countries.
Twitter has long had the edge over Facebook when it comes to live events such as sports matches because of its short, quick format. Now Facebook is hoping to capture this immediacy without any of the drawbacks that some Twitter users complain about.
Facebook hoping to draw in advertisers
Facebook Sports Stadium is part of an effort to lure advertisers, and its potential to reach a large audience all at once is likely to draw in big-name advertisers and sponsors. The news comes a day after YouTube announced a beta program where advertisers can time ads on Google platforms to coincide with pivotal moments that occur in live events.
Another benefit of the new feature is that it can keep sports-related content away from people who are not fans, making the Facebook user experience smoother for all members. Interested users can access Sports Stadium simply by searching for an individual game.
The new feature’s name is intended to capture the feeling of being in a stadium surrounded with other fans and sharing their passion.
In a company post, Facebook’s Product Manager Steve Kafka said: “With 650 million sports fans, Facebook is the world’s largest stadium. Now we’ve built a place devoted to sports so you can get the feeling you’re watching the game with your friends even when you aren’t together.”
It will make use of the Sportsradar data service to give each play its own post on Facebook that can be liked, shared, or commented on. Whereas Twitter aims to be a second screen that is used while watching the game on TV, Facebook aims to be the first and only screen fans will ever need.
Facebook Sports Stadium will only focus on football when it launches, but it will eventually be expanded to cover other sports such as soccer and basketball.
Huge potential from existing members
Facebook says it has 650 million members who are sports fans. In comparison, Wired reports that Twitter has a total of only 320 million monthly users, not all of whom are sports fans. This means there is likely to be a significant number of sports fans who use Facebook but not Twitter, and tapping into this audience could prove lucrative for Facebook.
The president of marketing firm XenoPsi, MichaelAaron Flicker, told Reuters that Facebook could face an uphill battle despite having a built-in audience. He said: “They don’t have that piece of the puzzle. The challenge for Facebook is there are already a lot of communities (like Facebook Sports Stadium). This is not a unique offering.”
Facebook is also hoping to expand into the virtual reality market and broaden its reach into countries where it is restricted, such as China and Iran. The firm will report its fourth-quarter earnings on Wednesday.