- Facebook and WWE yesterday announced a 12-episode, in-ring series called "Mixed Match Challenge" to stream on the social media platform's premium video tab Watch, according to news made available to Marketing Dive. In related news, the Amazon-owned streaming service Twitch has officially signed a deal with the NBA to air up to six minor league games each week starting Friday, Dec. 15, reported Variety.
- The Twitch streams will include features users are accustomed to, including interactive stats overlays; co-streaming options that allow some of the platform's personalities to offer live commentary; a fan loyalty program that rewards engagement; and perks for channel subscribers such as custom emotes for group chats. The games will include in-stream ads, Variety said.
- Similarly, the WWE series will have elements that are optimized for mobile viewers, some experimentation during the production and a degree of social interaction where fans can engage with Superstars as well as select matchups and match stipulations. The series will begin Jan. 16 and features talent from both Raw and SmackDown Live rosters. Each episode will run for 20 minutes and will be focused on single elimination, mixed tag-team tournaments, with a $100,000 prize going to support a charity of the winners' choice.
Both of the content deals point to the shifting state of the sports and entertainment media landscape as viewers — especially those in younger demographic brackets — continue to cut the cord on traditional cable and broadcast TV. Neither the WWE nor the NBA is trying to replicate a linear viewing experience here, and are instead trying to take advantage of the distinct capabilities of social media and digital streaming platforms through a heightened level of interactivity and engagement that could make an appealing draw for both audiences and brands.
With "Mixed Match Challenge," WWE fans are able to take an active part in how the 12 episodes of the show will unfold. The NBA's G League games on Twitch integrate elements of influencer marketing by featuring the platform's personalities as de facto commentators, reward engagement with specific loyalty features and also offer more traditional means to reach viewers through in-stream ads.
While these types of streaming efforts feel more experimental in some cases — the NBA is opting to air minor league games on Twitch, for example — it won't be surprising to see more major players enter the space over the next several years as digital platforms up their budgets for sports and entertainment content rights. Recode earlier this month reported Facebook is seeking out an executive specifically tasked with negotiating streaming sports deals, who would operate with a budget of potentially billions of dollars. Amazon's other streaming platform, Prime Video, is this year broadcasting 10 NFL Thursday Night Football games, which it secured for $50 million plus a rumored $30 million in free marketing and promotions for the pro football league.
PricewaterhouseCoopers forecasts that the North American sports media market will grow at a compound annual rate of 3% through 2021 across segments of media rights, gate revenues, sponsorships and merchandise. Media rights are expected to grow the fastest of those four segments at an estimated 4% each year, hitting $22.7 billion by 2021.