In recent months, Facebook has been looking to increase its footprint in live sports rights and has just hired an executive tasked acquiring such packages. As reported by Variety‘s Todd Spangler, the social media network has hired Eurosport CEO Peter Hutton to negotiate deals for global sports rights.
While at Eurosport, Hutton negotiated a surprising bid to nab European rights to the Olympics from the BBC. Prior to that, Hutton was an executive at Fox International Channels, where he acquired Africa’s Setanta Sports and ESPN/Star Sports in Asia. He eventually became CEO of ESPN/Star Sports and led its rebranding into Fox Sports in Asia and India’s Star Sports.
The Guardian points out that Facebook makes this hire just in time for the Feb. 9 deadline to bid for TV and digital rights to Premier League matches in the UK from 2019 to 2022. Although Hutton reportedly won’t leave for Facebook until after the Winter Olympics, making it unlikely that Facebook will be a major player for those rights. Soccer is the most followed sport among Facebook’s global users, however, which provides initiative to score a live rights deal soon.
Two years ago, Facebook acquired live rights to stream CONCACAF Champions League soccer. It has also discussed partnerships with various TV networks to get streaming rights for sports like the NFL. The interest in sports content is large enough that Facebook also expressed willingness to pay tens of millions of dollars for 2018 World Cup highlights. Not live rights, but highlights.
As 2017 neared its end, however, Facebook sought to build up its “Watch” feature with live sports and reportedly sought an executive whose expertise was in negotiating live sports rights. Last year, Facebook entered the bidding for rights to Indian Premier League cricket matches, offering $600 million before losing out to Star Sports India.
Facebook has previously partnered with MLB for a package of games (in addition to a separate deal with the Cubs), Stadium for college football and basketball broadcasts, and streamed soccer and cricket matches. The social network will not participate in the bidding for the NFL’s Thursday Night Football package, according to reports.