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Facebook’s livestreaming strategy looks a lot like Twitter’s livestreaming strategy

That means Facebook isn’t getting a lot of must-see TV.

Rio Women's Pro Surfing
A lot of Facebook’s streaming partners include fringe sports, like surfing.
Buda Mendes / Getty

Facebook wants to be a destination for live video content — especially live sports.

But the content it’s getting is reminiscent of the content Twitter started streaming last year: Fringe stuff you probably don’t want to watch.

Facebook’s deals so far include a streaming deal with Major League Soccer and another with the World Surf League. The NBA’s minor league system streams games on Facebook, and over the summer, Facebook streamed pre-Olympics basketball games from the men’s and women’s national teams. The network also added a random regular-season NBA game this January, but it was only available in India.

(Yes, soccer is growing in popularity, but its TV audience is still dwarfed by other sports, like the NFL.)

Facebook’s interest in sports isn’t a secret. In a statement from Facebook’s head of sports partnerships, Dan Reed, the company lays it out pretty clearly. “Sports are inherently social, with the power to build and connect communities around the world,” the statement reads. “This aligns closely with our mission, and we feel Facebook is a natural home for sports content, including live games.”

None of what Facebook has collected, though, is must-see TV, and most of it isn’t even close. It turns out finding video is easy, but finding good video — more specifically, must-see good video — is hard.

There’s one major reasons Facebook’s video lineup doesn’t look too appealing: Most must-see television isn’t available.

The NFL, for example, has already sold its broadcast rights through the 2022 season. The NBA is locked up through 2024-2025. Most of the other must-see stuff is too valuable to share with someone like Facebook, or put behind a paywall with a limited audience like Netflix or Amazon Prime. That means Facebook and Twitter are stuck with the leftovers.

There is still one more prize to be had in the world of digital streaming rights: The NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” digital streaming package. The TV broadcast rights for those games belong to CBS and NBC, but Twitter streamed 10 of the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” games. The broadcast rights for “Thursday Night” stay with the networks for another year, but the streaming rights are up for renewal.

Facebook was interested in that streaming deal last spring, and it’s very likely that it will talk to the NFL about it again this year. Twitter, too, is interested in streaming “Thursday Night Football,” and Amazon is another likely suitor. Twitter set the price last year, paying $10 million for 10 games, and if the NFL goes by the standard rights playbook, they’ll want more this year.

Even so, those games drew small audiences on Twitter compared to TV. And there’s no guarantee the NFL will even sell those streaming rights again for next season. But if Facebook wants video that’s more than just fringe material, this may be its best bet to get it.

Facebook is still learning how this whole streaming thing works. If the social network does end up bidding for NFL rights down the road — the big, expensive rights that TV networks have now — it’ll need to prove that it knows how to deliver video to a massive audience, and these smaller deals give the company a chance to practice that delivery. If Facebook can generate a sizable audience for surfing, imagine what it can do with NFL football.


This article originally appeared on Recode.net.