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The NFL and Facebook have signed a two-year deal to bring NFL game highlights and exclusive shows to the social platform’s over 2 billion monthly users.

Facebook will host highlights for all 256 regular season games, in addition to the playoffs and the Super Bowl, with users able to watch highlights of any game shortly after it ends, effective immediately. Also, the NFL will create unique behind the scenes content for Facebook’s dedicated video platform, Watch.

NFL viewership declined last year, and isn’t faring well this season either. Average viewership for the NFL fell 8% year-over-year (YoY) in 2016, from 17.9 million to 16.5 million, and NFL ratings are down double-digits so far this season. This makes the partnership particularly timely and important for the following reasons:

  • The partnership can expose Facebook’s younger users to NFL content. That’s critical because the NFL’s live viewer base is aging — the average viewer was 50 years old in 2016, up from 44 in 2000, according to Magna Global. Finding ways to reach more teens and millennials is therefore valuable, especially as these demographic segments increasingly turn away from pay-TV in favor of digital platforms. Additionally, younger users exposed to the NFL games might become fans of the league, and more NFL fans could lead to a higher demand for merchandise like team jerseys, increasing e-commerce sales.
  • It adds to the array of other deals the NFL has with digital companies to boost viewership. The league signed a three-year partnership deal with Tencent to stream Thursday, Sunday, and Monday Night Football games in China for the 2017-2019 seasons. Meanwhile, Amazon paid the NFL $50 million for a one-year deal to stream 10 Thursday Night Football games to Prime members. The league will likely continue to partner with digital players to stream NFL content as cord-cutting further accelerates

However, the partnership’s effect on NFL viewership could be limited by waning consumer interest in live sports. Forty-eight percent of US consumers say access to sports programming is not an important feature for pay-TV subscriptions, while 52% feel it is either “very” or “somewhat” important, according to an RBC survey cited by Variety. If these statistics are indicative of Facebook’s user preferences, the NFL will need to continue implementing changes to make its games more appealing to viewers — already, the NFL has said it will no longer penalize touchdown celebrations, and it’s searching for announcers who can strike a chord with a wider pool of consumers.

BI Intelligence ran a poll yesterday to gauge consumer interest in NFL content on Facebook Watch — the results suggest Facebook may have an uphill battle in winning NFL fans over to its platform. The poll was conducted on the Business Insider article that covered the NFL-Facebook partnership, targeting people with an interest in this topic. More than 650 people responded to the poll, with 48% saying they would watch NFL highlights on Facebook. That number rose to 60% among those interested in the NFL, including passionate fans (51%) and casual fans (24%). These results are somewhat positive, but we’d expect the percentage to be higher since the poll was targeted to people who consume NFL-related content. 

Robert Elder, research analyst for BI Intelligence, Business Insider’s premium research service, has put together a detailed report on social video that:

  • Assesses the evolving social video landscape, with attention to Facebook, YouTube, Snap, and Instagram.
  • Analyzes the relative strengths of each platform from a product, distribution, audience, and monetization perspective.
  • Looks at what’s next for the industry, so that media creators and brands can invest for the future.

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