Facebook and LeBron James’s Cleveland Cavaliers are teaming up for what is sure to be a slam dunk.
Yesterday it was announced that Facebook, in partnership with NBATV, will broadcast its first live sport event. The historic happenings will feature a live look into the 2014-2015 Eastern Conference Finals champs’ training camp on Thursday, October 1 from 11 am – 1pm. Facebook users are able to watch the Cavs’ practice by accessing NBATV’s fan page. The event will also be available to fans via NBATV and NBA.com.
According to Statica, Facebook has approximately 1.49 billion monthly users worldwide. If both Facebook and the NBA market their partnership effectively, the opportunities for each party are endless. It allows Facebook to evolve its platform beyond social media and into sports media. Of all the sports networks that launched in the past five years, mainly Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports Network, Facebook poses the largest threat to ESPN because of its massive user base, online behavior, and ease of access. Furthermore, as consumers continue to opt out of cable and opt into alternative methods to consume media, Facebook seems ripe to capitalize off the new normal.
As for the NBA, global expansion remains a priority for the sports league. In August, NBA players ventured to Africa to kickoff the league’s inaugural NBA Africa game. And this season, the NBA remains committed to its Global Games initiative in which NBA teams either play international basketball clubs, or travel overseas to play each other. Leveraging the greatest basketball player in the world, who has 22 million Facebook fans, to introduce a new venture with a global juggernaut like Facebook will undoubtedly draw interest from fans worldwide. While James’s teammates Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and Iman Shumpert are nursing injuries; and Tristan Thompson remains in a contract dispute, the possibility of being among the first to witness James do something spectacular at practice is too good for fans to dismiss. Anytime LeBron James steps on a basketball court, it’s must see TV.
Broadening its partnership with Facebook appears logical for the NBA, however the leagues‘s 2016-2017 massive media rights deal struck with ESPN and TNT, through the 2024-2025 seasons, may prevent Facebook and the NBA from going too deep, too fast. The two cable networks are reportedly paying $2.66 billion annually, with ESPN gaining increased access to television, digital, highlights, data, audio and international NBA rights. With so much money invested, I don’t imagine ESPN would allow Facebook to infringe upon its territory without putting up a fight. For now, the worldwide leader in sports has a firm hold on the long-held slogan, but if Facebook ramps up development within the sports space, that could change.
photo via Kim Klement / USA TODAY Sports