Fox Sports has announced plans to stream a slate of UEFA Champions League games for free on Facebook next season.
Two matches per week will be streamed during the group stages via the Fox Sports (English) and Fox Deportes (Spanish) Facebook pages in the US. The financial details have not been revealed by either party for the content deal, but it is known that it also includes four round-of-16 games and all four quarter-final matches.
“Facebook is a social media powerhouse and a great partner to help us grow soccer in the United States,” said David Nathanson, head of business operations, Fox Sports. “As people spend more and more time on mobile devices and social networks, offering matches on this platform is a natural extension.”
Dan Reed, head of global sports partnerships, Facebook, added: “We’re excited to help Fox reach new audiences, people consuming content on digital, mobile and social. We’re bullish on soccer”.
Football is the most-followed sport on the social media network. During the culmination of this season’s UEFA Champions League, in which Real Madrid beat Juventus, 34 million people had 98 million related interactions on Facebook.
It is Facebook’s third rights deal for live football. It already has two agreements in place with Univision: one for English-language simulcasts of its Mexican league coverage, and one for English-language broadcasts of its US Major League Soccer (MLS) programming.
“There are more matches in English and Spanish than we have networks to air them on,” David Nathanson, head of business operations at Fox Sports, told Bloomberg. “Facebook has one of the most social soccer audiences on the web, and this is going to expose the Champions’ League to fans who aren’t tuning into a game on TV.”
Fox has been UEFA’s rights holder in the US since the 2009-10 season, but has lost out to Turner Sports for the English language rights to broadcast Champions League and Europa League football from 2018-21. The Spanish-language rights during that time will be held by Univsion, which reportedly paid around US$35 million per year for the privilege.
In previous seasons, Fox has usually aired one group stage Champions League game on Fox Sports 1, one on Fox Sports 2, and one on Fox Sports Net regional affiliates. Football fans have traditionally also been served by online platforms Fox Sports Go and Fox Soccer Match Pass.
Fox has also previously sub-licensed some matches to ESPN for distribution on English TV via ESPN2 and Spanish TV via ESPN Deportes, with additional games available online through Watch ESPN.