Facebook Australia will begin streaming official NRL and AFL highlights and weekly wrap up shows after signing a new deal with the sports’ governing bodies. The social media giant continues to sign content partnerships to bolster its new streaming platform, Watch, which launched in Australia last year.

Nine, Fox Sports and Telstra currently hold the rights to broadcast and stream full NRL matches in a $1.8 billion deal that runs until 2022. The AFL’s deal, which also runs until 2022, is for $2.5 billion with Seven, Foxtel, and Telstra.

Broadcast ratings for the NRL have dropped in 2019, a trend which was downplayed by NRL boss Andrew Abdo in April as a change in consumption channels rather than fans turning away.

Today Abdo said the Facebook deal would help extend the code’s reach.

“This is about providing another avenue for new and existing fans to access our game.

“Our club members are increasing every year and our national and global audiences continue to diversify and consume their rugby league content where and when they want.”

Facebook said its content will include highlights from the men’s and women’s NRL and AFL competitions as well as live original programs, season classic matches, and weekly wrap up shows. The company says it is also working to extend its partnership with Cricket Australia to continue live streaming Women’s Big Bash League matches.

Facebook also has a content deals with Seven Studios, the wholly owned content creation division of Seven West Media, to produce original digital series for the Watch platform. The content is based on Seven’s popular programs like My Kitchen Rules and Home and Away.

Watch launched in Australia in August last year after debuting in the US in 2017. The platform provides a feed of video content with Facebook’s comment and interaction tools. Globally 140 million people spend at least one minute in Watch each day, according to the Facebook.

Advertiser appeal

Watch includes non-skippable ads up to 15 seconds which Facebook claims are watched in full most of the time.

“For advertisers, this means non-skippable ads up to 15 seconds, which is a format the industry has been asking for,” said Naomi Shepherd, director, Facebook Australia.

“70 per cent of ads are viewed to completion with the majority being sound on and 85 per cent of in-stream impressions are viewable according to the MRC standard. We see this as an excellent option to complement our on-the-go formats of Newsfeed and Stories, with brand safety controls in place via premium buys, category blocking, page and domain block lists and pre and post-campaign publisher lists.”

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