Report: Facebook in talks with soccer's Cristiano Ronaldo for Watch reality show
- Facebook is in talks to develop a reality show about global soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo for Facebook Watch, per a report from Variety. The Portuguese player may get paid about $10 million for a 13-episode show on the social-media giant’s video platform for TV-style content, unnamed sources told the publication.
- Ronaldo has more than 120 million followers for his official Facebook page, making him the most popular athlete on the social network. He also is one of the most-recognized sports celebrities worldwide as a player for the Spanish pro team Real Madrid.
- Separately, Facebook won the live broadcast rights to show English Premier League soccer games in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, which have an enormous following of British games, per The Times of London. The social network paid £200 million ($267 million) at auction to show each season's 380 games, topping bids from BeIN Sports and Fox Sports Asia.
Facebook has opened up its checkbook for dozens of original shows for Facebook Watch in the past year, while also bidding for the streaming rights to sports programming. The social media giant's reported bid of $10 million for the Ronaldo docu-series is a key sign that the company is eager to develop content that can appeal to the widest possible global audience. Facebook’s reach of 2.2 billion users is unrivaled among social media apps but has struggled to drive viewing on Watch.
Previously, Facebook bought a scripted drama series from Ronaldo and Paul Lee’s newly launched studio, wiip. The show is about a diverse high-school girls soccer team in upstate New York that inspires the local community to overcome racial, ethnic and class differences. Facebook Watch’s sports-related programming is particularly popular on the platform. Basketball reality show "Ball in the Family" has 1.5 million followers on Facebook Watch, per Variety's report.
Facebook’s winning bid to broadcast the English Premier League in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam is its biggest push so far into the lucrative soccer tournament, per Bloomberg. As a sign of Facebook’s commitment to develop live sports programming, the company this year hired Peter Hutton, former CEO of Discovery-owned Eurosport, to lead its negotiating team for live-streaming sports deals.
Facebook is willing to put billions of dollars into global rights to sports broadcasts, Sports Business Journal reported. The social network’s aggressive spending on live sports, such as a $600 million bid for five-year streaming rights to Indian Premier League cricket matches, helped to motivate 21st Century Fox Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch to sell the company to Disney. Murdoch’s Star India outbid Facebook for streaming and broadcast rights, but the social network’s aggressive bid was a sign of its commitment to top-level live sports.