Facebook Jockeys For Position In Social TV Space With SportStream Buy

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FBSportStreamFacebook’s acquisition Tuesday of sports-centric social analytics and real-time trending platform SportStream signifies it’s not letting up in its tête-à-tête with Twitter.

“Twitter has natural advantages in the social TV space,” commented Martin Kihn, a research director at Gartner. “It’s the go-to platform for real-time event-driven conversation, facilitated by hashtags. … On the other hand, Facebook says it has five times greater social TV conversation than anyone else. It also has five times greater scale than anyone else, so it’s believable. But it’s not an open platform and still doesn’t have a real-time feel.”

Kihn noted that one month after social activity measurement company Trendrr released its findings around Facebook’s TV momentum, Twitter itself snapped up the company. Then, in September, Twitter launched Amplify, a partnership program for broadcast advertisers who want to take advantage of “second-screen” viewer habits, in which individuals surf the Internet while watching TV.

Facebook’s acquisition of SportStream, founded in 2012, “is another parry in this real-time social conversation battle,” Kihn added. “Basically, the acquisition gives Facebook a way to demonstrate its value to TV advertisers as a real-time social platform.”

That value, however, won’t come from sports teams buying ads on Facebook. Instead, Kihn said, “they’re making advertisers who use sports slots comfortable with buying a synched spot on Facebook.” SportStream, he added, can demonstrate how a viewer is watching a game and theoretically facilitate those one-two buys (or TV augmented with paid social media buys) with greater impact.

In a memo by Justin Osofsky, Facebook’s VP of media partnerships and global operations, wrote, “[T]hrough this acquisition, we expect to meaningfully improve the ability for all of our partners to access and utilize the insights from Facebook’s tools and APIs.” He added that SportStream’s team will facilitate a closer relationship with Facebook media partners and technology partners that “have integrated Keyword Insights and Public Feed APIs into their product suite.”

SportStream is itself a participant in Facebook’s Keyword Insights and Public Feed beta program. It recently extended its offering to social analytics to “pull data from social platforms and make it available to media companies,” said SportStream’s CEO Bob Morgan in a recent interview with AdExchanger.

“We’re using all the structured data we have [in the SportsBase platform like trending teams, coaches, topics among sports writers and players] and we’re making queries through Facebook’s new real-time APIs that allow you to query mentions and look for aggregate mentions across Facebook’s usership at any given time,” he said.

Although that trending information is not applied to ad placements, Morgan said SportStream knows event airtime and the peaks certain sports-related topics experience at different times. “That sort of intelligence will be really valuable moving forward,” he said.

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