- Pirated video streams of National Football League (NFL) games are rampant on Facebook and YouTube, according to a report CNBC.
- The news publisher unearthed dozens of live or almost-live videos on the platforms last week. Most of the streams, pirated from CBS and NBC broadcasts, were taken down by the platforms within 10-20 minutes but still attracted thousands of viewers.
- Finding these illegal streams is made easier due to Facebook's and YouTube's algorithms that suggest similar phrases to keywords that are searched by the user, according to CNBC. When a user types "NFL" into the platforms' search boxes, many are served a selection of videos related to the phrase "NFL live streaming," directing them to pirated content.
News of widespread pirated games streamed on digital video platforms comes as many of these companies, especially Facebook, are gearing up to make bigger plays for sports streaming content. Recode earlier this week reported the social network is hoping to hire an executive whose main responsibility will be to negotiate sports streaming deals, operating with a budget of a "few billion dollars." Piracy — or Facebook's failure to properly tamp down on pirated content promoted in its search bar — could put a dent in those plans, the company's credibility as a video provider and its bargaining power during rights negotiations.
Facebook in September signed a two-year deal to host recaps and other NFL post-game highlights but does not currently broadcast any professional football games. Earlier this year, both it and YouTube lost the rights to stream 10 Thursday Night Football games to Amazon, which paid $50 million upfront plus a reported $30 million in free marketing and promotions for the league.
With a shift toward sports, Facebook is attempting to use live events as a catalyst to drive user growth and eventually digital ad revenues for features like Facebook Live and Watch, especially as marketers continue to shift their ad dollars from TV to digital media. This trend also comes as the NFL faces a decline ratings, with more consumers cutting the cord on cable in favor of digital alternatives.