Last week, Facebook launched “Facebook Sports Stadium,” a new sports hub dedicated to experiencing sports in real-time with fans around the world. The platform announcement began trending on Twitter, which is ironic because Facebook is essentially making a play for Twitter’s real-time sports space.
Social media has already become a place for sports fans to celebrate their team’s victories or vent about their disappointments in real time. This offering has been one of Twitter’s key selling points, much less so with Facebook. With “Sports Stadium,” however, Facebook is aiming to make it much easier for those following these games online to augment their experience with the platform. Users are able to see posts about games from friends, comments on specific plays, commentary from experts (teams, journalists, etc.), live scores, stats, play-by-plays and information about the game, such as where to watch it on TV, all in one spot. Fans can even like or comment on individual plays through “Sports Stadium.”
Facebook ‘s focus is on the NFL for the time being, as they launched ahead of the NFL Conference Championship playoff games. I was able to give it a test-run this past weekend during both games.
The first indication that Facebook has a ways to go, before they compete with Twitter for “real-time sports fans” was how hard it was for me to find the feature on the app. There isn’t a dedicated tab on the main screen like there is for your News Feed or Messages. Instead you have to use the search bar and type in the name of a particular team. I chose the Broncos and was greeted with a quick recap of each play and a few posts from experts, however the one key thing that was missing, were my friends. Only two had weighed in on the game.
In theory, Sports Stadium has potential. However, in practice, Facebook has an uphill climb before it can dominate the real-time sports space. Sports content performs extremely well on Facebook because the audience is enormous and the targeting is great but it isn’t necessarily happening in real-time. And that’s a good thing. It opens the door for more personal content, fun content or richer stories about sports that aren’t necessarily tied to a single play or moment.
But in terms of where the real-time sports conversation happens, I still think that will happen on Twitter. The constantly updating news feed, who you follow and hashtags make the conversations interest-based, instead of relationship-based.
Also, fans want to talk about sports with other fans who are watching the same game, not with family members who don’t care about sports. My friends and family members aren’t necessarily all interested in sports or the specific teams that I like. Twitter makes it easier for avid fans to go crazy on social and talk about the games with other fans.
Time will tell if users start to make their way to the Facebook Sports Stadium but if the lack of engagement with Twitter’s Moments are any indication, the stadium may stay empty.