Mark Zuckerberg didn’t get the IPL but he may have a shot at pro football.
In case you had any doubts about how serious Mark Zuckerberg is about video, this ought to help: Facebook just tried to pay $600 million for a five-year deal to stream Indian cricket matches.
Facebook didn’t win the auction for the Indian Premier League — Rupert Murdoch’s Star ended up paying $2.6 billion for a package that included broadcast and streaming rights.
But the fact that Facebook was willing to put up that kind of money is a big, bold declaration that the company will write real checks in order to get its hands on must-see sports content.
Up until now, it was possible to debate that idea: Facebook has been paying for some sports, but most of it has been second-tier, toe-in-the-water stuff like college football games between low-profile teams.
Meanwhile, Twitter and Amazon have gotten their hands on the most high-profile sports property that’s gone up for grabs in recent years: Ten-game packages to stream NFL games on Thursday nights.
But the IPL — a two-month tournament — is a very big deal in India, and Facebook was bidding for the rights to stream it there and in the surrounding countries. As you can see (if you squint), via the IPL’s refreshingly transparent bidding process, Facebook was the only Silicon Valley company in the mix:
So what’s next? Facebook didn’t have any comment beyond a confirmation that it had bid on the IPL games.
But if you want to start speculating, here’s an idea: Verizon’s four-year, $1 billion deal for NFL mobile rights expires at the end of this season.
While most people have assumed the NFL would look to re-up with Verizon or another wireless carrier, people familiar with the league note that mobile rights don’t necessarily have to go to a traditional phone company — they could go to someone who wants to distribute media on a phone.
That is: If the NFL chooses to sell it that way, anyone who wants to pay enough could get the rights to stream a season’s worth of America’s most popular sport.
What would that be worth to Facebook?