Facebook’s sports chief has poured cold water on speculation that the tech giant is about to rival Sky and BT for broadcast rights to the Premier League.
Manchester United executive chairman Ed Woodward name-checked Facebook and Amazon as likely bidders last month, while Facebook showed a willingness to enter the live sports market with a failed $600m offer to show Indian Premier League cricket earlier this year.
Facebook’s head of global sports partnerships Dan Reed indicated that the social media platform may prefer to collaborate with a broadcaster rather than attempt to outmuscle them.
“Being a distributor of content doesn’t mean that you have to be competitive with someone that you think of as a broadcaster today,” Reed told the Leaders in Sport summit in London on Thursday.
“There are plenty of ways to do that in a very complementary way. I’m not saying there will never be a time when we’re working directly with the rights holder – we’re doing that today – but it’s not black and white.
“It can be a very collaborative, complementary relationship and that’s been our experience so far. We have great relationships with broadcasters across the board.
“The bedrock of our relationships with broadcasters today is in supporting their existing television business. So we work with broadcasters all around the world to help drive subscriptions for their pay TV product.
“We see that when engagement spikes on Facebook during a live broadcast event, a few minutes later, ratings spike on television, because that’s a way for a lot of people to find out that something amazing happened in a broadcast and they should go tune in.”
Facebook’s stance is likely to dent optimism that the Premier League can achieve significant growth from the sale of TV rights for the 2019-2022 cycle.
The current contracts are worth £8bn over three years and are up for renewal in the next few months.
Of a potential collaboration with Sky or BT, Reed said it was “way too early to speculate on how we might participate in something like that – or whether we might participate”.
He added: “These are very, very early days. Frankly, we’re still building what we think is the right kind of product and business model to support that.”
Facebook currently has an arrangement with Fox Sports in the United States to show Champions League games that then network owns the rights to but does not air.
It also has deals directly with Major League Baseball to stream 20 matches and with the NFL to show American football highlights.