On 1st November, an England-Greece table tennis match gained more than 2 million views via Facebook Live on the media page SPORTbible. What’s even more impressive was the fact that this happened despite the Champions League football match between Manchester City v Barcelona taking place the same evening.  Move over football.
Streaming sports events via Facebook Live is nothing new.
The innovative thing was not to broadcast the match live via the Table Tennis England Facebook page, which has a relatively small audience of around 13,000 fans, but instead via a non-traditional channel: the SPORTbible Facebook page – a channel that has nearly 9 million fans.
Via The SPORTbible and Facebook Live, Table Tennis England was able to reach a much larger audience for the sport, also crucially bringing their sport to a much younger demographic.
Mark Taffler, Head of Commercial at Table Tennis England, said:
“This is an exciting initiative and shows that Table Tennis England are determined to look at innovative projects to help our sport grow.
“We are particularly keen to reach new and younger audiences and The SPORTbible have a fantastic track record in reaching that demographic, so we’re really pleased to be working with them.”*
Adam Clyne, the Chief Operating Officer of The SPORTbible’s parent company LADbible, said “the success of the experiment came as no surprise” to the youth-oriented, online publishing group.
“We are living in an age of disruption for many industries and sports broadcasting is no different,” Clyne said. “We have almost nine million Facebook followers and they are hungry for content.”**
“Facebook Live is a great platform for this and, if we can act as a conduit for a sport that doesn’t get many eyeballs, it’s a win-win.”
Of course, we could start questioning the broadcast’s Facebook metrics, but first and foremost we should be celebrating the innovative thought process behind it. I hope we see more rights holders giving some real thought to how they can reach and grow their audiences via non-traditional channels.
For example, could athletes and celebrities with a large following start using their Facebook page to broadcast sports events via Facebook Live?  Imagine Cristiano Ronaldo charging rights holders to broadcast their sport via his channel to reach 120 million followers.
The opportunity to use online live sports content to grow audiences and revenue for niche sports is enormous. We’re just beginning this journey. It’s going to be fascinating to see how many smaller sports react and take advantage of such opportunities in the coming years.
Quotes from:
* Table Tennis England
** Belfast Telegraph