World Snooker’s Facebook deal shows big possibilities for small sports
Last week’s news that Amazon Prime has taken rights to stream NFL’s Thursday Night Football on its platform means that the world of sport has been talking about broadcasting directly onto the internet once again.
Every week a new story arises in this area, and the addition to live streaming onto platforms like Facebook and Twitter gathers pace.
When most people think of sport, though, we often think of the big ticket items. NFL, lots of different football (soccer) leagues, rugby, NBA and countless others have all streamed something live online, many using Facebook or Twitter, free at the point of use to the consumer.
It’s interesting that the big names might choose to broadcast on Facebook for various reasons, but the smaller ones have been looking to get in on the live streaming action just in order to get some exposure.
Buying rights to live sport usually involves buying the rights in, say, the UK or the US. So if, to use a wild example, Sky Sports were to reach a deal with Facebook to live stream Premier League games next season, their rights would only apply to UK users, and the content would have to be geofenced. And with the Premier League representing such a big draw for broadcasters and fans alike, it’s safe to say that there’ll be more than one party interested in the broadcasting (or streaming) rights by the time the next cycle comes around.
But what about the smaller sports?
Recently, World Snooker reached a deal with Facebook to stream the World Championships. The deal, as BBC Sport will broadcast the tournament in the UK, will see the social media platform stream the action in the Americas and some of Asia.
Snooker has three major tournaments, and a large audience will tune into watch the Masters and the UK Championship, but particularly the World Championship from The Crucible in Sheffield. In Britain, it’s a huge event. Outside the British Isles, though, it’s much less important. So will the ability to broadcast across the world without the need to persuade a TV company to buy the rights lead to exciting times for sports like snooker – a minority sport, but one with a big following for certain events in only a few countries.
When Premier League football rights are available, there will of course be the usual clamour. But snooker rights don’t hold the same clout worldwide, leaving the sport in the interesting position of being able to just use Facebook to broadcast its own content to the public in the countries where TV companies haven’t bought the rights.
It’ll take more than a Facebook live stream of Ronnie O’Sullivan to grow a dedicated army of snooker fans in South America, but it’s a start. And it’ll certainly do more to grow the sport around the world than begging TV companies to pick it up and broadcast it on a channel no-one watches.
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