Yesterday Bloomberg Technology reported that Facebook will live stream Champions League matches (up to a dozen), starting in September this year. The deal, a tie up with Fox, will capitalise on huge interest in football on the platform. In fact, football (they call it soccer, but I've made the appropriate US-UK conversion), is the biggest sport on Facebook. Last year 3.7 million tuned in to watch a Wayne Rooney sponsored match between Everton and Manchester Utd.
This is big news in itself, but the direction of travel could be even bigger news...
Although the deal is currently only for the US market, it shows intent from the media giant, and mirrors similar ambition from Twitter, who also see first hand the buzz on social media when live sport attracts mass viewing and hence mass debate, impressions and revenue.
This then begs the question: What is a TV station? It used to be a big shiny and seemingly untouchable pillar of the media landscape. They held all the cards. If you wanted to be on TV or get a TV show on air, the commissioning editors were gods. But what are TV stations now? Are they simply another outlet for content? In theory, all TV shows, live sport, political debate and film premiers could be delivered to the device we used to just speak to people with. Why the need for a TV station?
I argue that it does make difference where you watch. Whatever you call the room that houses your biggest TV, it is usually more comfortable, set up for viewing and perhaps even for family time around 'the box' (which, before staring at phones became so common, would have sounded unhealthy!). A view on a phone is not the same as a view on the TV in 4k surround sound sat on the sofa eating popcorn. It just isn't.
TV stations are also curators of content. The video recorder and various PVR devices have been around for decades, but they have not hugely altered the way we view TV because we still prefer (on the whole) to have TV scheduled, planned, vetted and delivered to us as we're used to.
I would also argue that having so many stations or platforms for live sport viewing are not good for the fan. Having to subscribe to SKY Sports and BT Sport in order to watch all the Premiership matches is a good example of this. It does nothing for the fan other than guarantee that their subscriptions for the channels will rise. Facebook, Twitter and Google will only add to this if they throw their very large hats into the ring (not to mention Netflix, Amazon or perhaps even Apple).
We watch a station because we like its brand, we know what we're going to get, just like we know how a McDonald's burger will taste. We want to discuss the 'big game' with people the next day (or as it airs) so we don't want multiple subscriptions for our favourite content. In a way, this hinders real life social interaction, whilst facilitating online social interaction - that's where the money is.
If the recent Facebook deal hints at future intentions to bid for big shows or live sport, then the usefulness of a TV station may be called into question. Just as new delivery systems start to commission their own original content (House of Cards, The Grand Tour etc.) the old delivery systems must consider their part in a changing landscape to stay relevant.