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Facebook-ICC partnership highlights power of non-live digital content

Facebook has acquired the digital exclusive rights for International Cricket in a deal announced with the International Cricket Council on September 26, 2019. Unlike their partnership with LaLiga, where the latter was trying to increase its viewer base in India, cricket is the largest sport in the Indian subcontinent.

This partnership gives Facebook access to 500 hours of content every year till 2023, which includes highlights, match clips, reactions, and data from the tournaments. Facebook’s own content around content will had several 100 more hours of content in the mix.

Facebook’s cricket play goes as far back as 2017, when they failed to strike a deal with BCCI for the Indian Premier League. Last year in March, they brought in Peter Hutton, ex-CEO of Discovery Eurosport, and appointed him as Global Director of live sports partnerships and programming. With Hutton’s knowhow in their arsenal, Facebook could negotiate more aggressively for digital partner rights.

In the 2019, ICC recorded 4.6 billion views on their catch-up content for the World Cup on platforms like YouTube, Facebook, etc. There was clearly an opportunity to monetise that engagement and turn those casuals to fanatics.

When Adgully reached out, both Facebook and ICC declined to comment on the cost of acquisition of the digital rights.

ICC announces groundbreaking partnership with Facebook

Speaking on how India’s favourite game on the world’s largest social platform would benefit the end viewer, Prasad Shejale, Co-Founder & CEO, Logicserve Digital, told Adgully, “This partnership is very apt for the changing times and will intensify the buzz around the popular game of cricket across the world. Also, this is a great way to give the new-gen users what they want through innovative and creative use of technology. Furthermore, it will be exciting to see how AR, VR and Mixed Reality experiences are designed to engage with fans in the future.”

Earlier, this content along with the livestream footage of the match would be available only on OTT platforms, whose broadcast counterpart would hold the media rights to the property. The partnership with Facebook has created an odd demarcation between where the livestream will be available and where the post-match highlights, short clips and exclusive content will be available.

We know that catchup content rules the consumer viewing habits in India. Most of these have freemium viewing with ad support. According to Ashish Chaddha, Chief Executive Officer, SportySolutionz, a sports marketing company, “This will affect the rights holder in a big way, in this case, Hotstar. OTT platforms are not only about live streaming, but also about the catch-up content. Now with a player with the reach of Facebook serving the same on their platform, that too for free, will affect the right holder in a big way. According to me, anyone who will now look for the acquisition of the rights in future will always keep the non-live rights also exclusive for themselves. The way Star India has woven in a relationship with BCCI on both IPL and BCCI Home Series rights.”

With their existing base of millions, Facebook is far more accessible to users. Plus, it has always been a free platform, unlike OTT players that play around with subscription and ad supported models.

To unlock a younger audience for the sport, Shamsuddin Jasani, MD – South Asia, Isobar, believes that Facebook will have to draw on its strengths. “Ideally, since Facebook is a social platform, I would want a lot of experts to interact with users as that will drive a lot of interactivity. If I can have a chat with one of the expert commentators, then that would be the biggest draw of the platform,” he added.

Jasani doubts that broadcasters have anything to fear from the Facebook partnership since the older audience will continue to watch the sport as they always have.

“From a telecast perspective, there is enough money to be made from cricket. A majority of Indian still don’t pay for OTT platforms,” he noted.

Advertising deals for ICC were sold as packages that generally included telecast as well as livestream inventory. With Facebook only hosting catchup content, they would have to innovate how brands engage with viewers through the platform.

Facebook had announced that it would be releasing three innovative ad formats in September. One of them is an augmented reality format, where users can try out the products of the brand in their Facebook Stories. Another poll only format allows both ICC and advertisers to interact with audiences to get their feedback.

Advertisers who partner with Facebook can create innovative and personalised campaigns and also get the reach that both cricket and Facebook will attract.

Not to mention that Facebook will also look at leveraging WhatsApp and Instagram for the sport.

Isobar’s Jasani said, “Instagram lends itself beautifully to any visual content and will actually be a bigger force for new viewers to come in. It will unlock a younger in who are more into football.”

“WhatsApp, we will need to see, because it has largely been a closed platform. You may have to subscribe to updates to get cricket related news. Exclusive content could be pushed to your mobile where they incentivise you to subscribe to get that information,” he concluded.

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