Facebook has signed a two-year deal to bring highlights and other clips to its two billion users around the world. The deal, which kicks in immediately, will let Facebook users watch highlights of any game shortly after it ends.
The NFL is also creating a couple of highlight shows specifically for Facebook’s new “Watch” video platform, which will only be available to U.S. viewers, for now. Users will be able to watch the clips for free; Facebook is paying the NFL an undisclosed amount for rights to show the highlights, and will try to earn some of that money back by selling ads that will run during the clips.
This is a deal Facebook has been thinking about for several years but hasn’t been able to pull off until recently because it didn’t have a good way to make money from videos that run on its platform. Now it hopes its unskippable “mid-roll” ad format will make it work.
Three years ago, Facebook and the NFL tried a different version of this deal for a short run during the NFL playoffs. But back then, Facebook was insistent on running ads after its videos, and advertisers weren’t excited about that format at all.
Facebook certainly isn’t the only place you can see NFL highlights — the league has been insistent about divvying up rights and clips across multiple platforms. But assuming that the financials work, you can see how this might be very powerful: Facebook will be able to deliver clips directly to individual fans, in their feeds, based on their team preferences, geography and other characteristics. (For the bad version of this targeting, see: Last year’s election.)
Reminder: Facebook is serious about sports. Earlier this year, it signed a deal to stream a couple dozen major league baseball games, and earlier this month it bid $600 million in a losing bid to show cricket matches in India. That certainly won’t be the last time it tries writing a big check.