ESPN is poised to bring more sports to Facebook Watch.
Via a new deal between the two, ESPN will bring exclusive versions of Countdown to GameDay and Fantasy Focus Live to Facebook’s video-on-demand service. Facebook Watch will also carry the new People’s MMA Show, plus new segments from Always Late with Katie Nolan.
The tech giant has been steadily adding sports content to Facebook Watch since its launch in August 2017. The goal? Turn Facebook Watch into a “unique” way to experience sports, according to Rob Shaw, Facebook’s head of league and media sports partnerships.
“The thing you have to keep in mind about Facebook is we’re 24-7. People come in when they wake up in the morning, they see what’s going on, what their friends are up to, what their family’s doing. Then they check during the afternoon. They check before the game, they check during the game, they check after the game,” Shaw said. “It’s ultimately our job to make sure that when sports fans are coming to Facebook, there is programming there for them.”
Ryan Spoon, ESPN’s senior vice president of digital and social content, said the network picked shows starring young talent like Nolan and Maria Taylor of GameDay who “live and breathe” Facebook’s audience.
“We’re taking content where we know there’s already a natural, strong fit, that can validate both us and Facebook together,” Spoon said. “We can now create some really, fantastic, exclusive specific content. We can deliver something that can resonate, that scales.”
Both companies are willing to experiment, he added. That means the ESPN content that Facebook Watch viewers get early on will look different by the end of the year, according to Spoon.
“I define success as: Are fans enjoying this and happy? Are we working with Facebook day in, day out, to continue to improve and iterate on these concepts?” Spoon asked. “Thus far with our relationship, the answer has been an overwhelming yes.”
Look for ESPN and Facebook Watch to engage fans with live Q&A’s, polls and watch parties. Details on ESPN shows coming to Facebook Watch:
– Countdown to GameDay: Each week, Facebook Watch will show an exclusive version of College GameDay’s pregame show. The show will feature Taylor, a fast-rising star at ESPN, and other GameDay reporters and analysts.
Shaw sounded particularly jazzed to have the iconic GameDay franchise included in the deal. “It’s just another great opportunity to get an enormous fan base the content they’re craving,” he said.
– Fantasy Focus Live: ESPN’s fantasy experts Matthew Berry, Field Yates, Stephania Bell, and Daniel Dopp will offer the usual player previews and injury reports. More importantly, Facebook Watch will allow fans to ask these experts direct questions to help plan their fantasy lineups.
– Always Late with Katie Nolan: The late-night sports comedy show will offer exclusive segments on Facebook Watch. Initially launched on the ESPN+ subscription streaming service, Nolan’s show will make its linear TV debut on ESPN2 September 26. Her show will air Thursdays at 12:30 a.m.
– The People’s MMA Show: The new show will feature MMA reporter Ariel Helwani. The show will include viewer submissions and live Q&As on ESPN’s MMA Facebook page.
The two partners have collaborated before. ESPN previously rolled out a viewer-interactive version of Stephen A. Smith’s morning debate show, First Take, for Facebook Watch in early 2018. Called First Take: Your Take, the show streamed three times a week on the Facebook Watch page.
Facebook Watch now draws over 140 million daily visitors and 720 million monthly visitors. The site’s 140 million daily visitors spend an average of 26 minutes a day.
ESPN Digital, meanwhile, reached 89 million unique monthly users in August, up 24% from the same month last year. The ESPN Fantasy App was the No. 1 fantasy app in August with 8.1 million uniques, up 19% from last year. It was ESPN’s ninth straight month of record-setting monthly reach.