New York: Let’s say you’re a Facebook user, you’re at an Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket match and you begin streaming live on your smartphone as play begins. Facebook users in 60 coutries can log in and watch the entire match free of cost.

Can traditional broadcasters ask fans not to broadcast live from their phones or will sports officialdom clamp down new rules to limit live streaming from smartphones? What if Facebook wants to bid for the rights?

Last season, a company which makes incense sticks and another which makes cement bought the bid documents, so Facebook or Twitter are not a long shot.

Would you rather see Sachin and Dhoni on linear TV or Facebook Live?Would you rather see Sachin and Dhoni on linear TV or Facebook Live?

Would you rather see Sachin and Dhoni on linear TV or Facebook Live?

Harsha Bhogle is out of IPL 2016. So what?

Before we go further on that, let’s talk Harsha Bhogle. BCCI has brought Bhogle’s IPL 2016 commentary contract to a screeching halt. Twitter has erupted, we’ve certainly not heard the last word on this one.

Harsha Bhogle has more than 500,000 likes on his Facebook page, more than 3 million follows on Twitter. What does it take for Harsha Bhogle to seamlessly begin his own live stream on Facebook – nothing except a tripod, a decent microphone and he’s ready to roll.

Bhogle is an independent powerhouse in cricket commentary, so BCCI cannot stop any live stream on his personal Facebook page. The views Bhogle will get will be phenomenal, just going by what we know about how Facebook Live operates.

Now let’s come to companies.

Facebook and a potential IPL bid

Are there pre-conditions that may stop social media powerhouses from bidding for IPL rights? Yes, but there are obvious workarounds too.

Media reports say BCCI will begin the bid process for the next tranche of IPL rights in May 2016. The 2015-2017 rights are held by Sony.

The most recent bid document for the IPL seasons 2015-2017 defines bidders by their “experience” in broadcasting cricket and other sporting events:

“The bid objective contemplates that eligible bidders shall have “extensive experience” in broadcasting live’cricket and other premium sporting events.

Strictly speaking, the case against a social media empire that has not bid for or broadcast cricket can be lack of “experience” but what if / when Facebook joins hands with an existing sports channel to bid for rights?

Social media and sport broadcasting in the US/ UK

In the US, Fox Sports and ESPN are already using Facebook Live generously to supplement their sports coverage.

In the UK, BBC and Sky have enjoyed big successes with Facebook Live.

BBC Sport was the first brand outside the US to use Live especially those under 24 who form more than half of their viewers. If all Facebook needs is a legitimacy crutch in the garb of a sports broadcaster with domain experience, the market has plenty.

What if you’re so done with the limited menu of commentators and you find a Sachin Tendulkar or Rahul Dravid commenting live on the match on their Facebook pages? Would you mute the TV volume, watch the visuals there and engage with Sachin or Rahul instead?

In the US, Facebook and Twitter have begun bidding for sport broadcasting rights. Twitter, in recent weeks, bagged the rights to live-stream 10 NFL games next season.

What does the IPL bid document say?

As of now, the 2015-17 bid documents for IPL cricket in India defines television sets to includes “portable/hand held devices such as tablets, smartphones, other devices with screens that may receive content via internet delivery.” Given that Facebook is already the world’s largest population of smartphone users, does Facebook qualify to bid basis definition of receiving platform?

What happens if every Facebook user in the stadium goes live during the match?

Facebook currently allows a 90 minute live feed at a time. When that finishes, you can start up a new one.

Facebook is the world’s largest social network and comes to users free of cost. To that extent, a Facebook live stream of a sport blowout will reach more masses of people and create more engagement than linear TV.

Simple tweaks in Facebook’s mighty algorithm ensure that live streams appear higher up on users’ news feeds.

Going by what we know already, the average viewing duration of live videos on Facebook are three times longer when it’s live.

If some of the people broadcasting live are celebrities with large networks, it’s rich potential for engagement. The star’s live feed will pop up on others’ news feeds, they can interact, post comments, pretty much do everything you do on a Snapchat video and all of which linear television does not offer. Even after the live broadcast is done, the interactions with audience will pop up in the same order they were posted on that video.

In January, Facebook hit 100 million hours of video watched on its site per day. It now says users are 10 times more likely to comment on a live video and share which means advertisers are also more likely to pay up and place ads alongside a video.

From being just a social media platform to major event broadcaster, it’s a short hop for Facebook if it chooses to go that way, now that its audacious live stream is official in over 60 countries

Facebook’s head of global sport sponsorships has gone on record saying “Live offers them (broadcasters) huge engagement with their audiences than a more linear broadcast format like TV does and the more progressive broadcasters are seeing that they can use it to offer content that would be hard to squeeze into a traditional TV broadcast.”

So far, digital social media platforms have not bitten into live sport on television but Facebook has made inroads into sports broadcasting over the years and is now set to hasten that push.

Closer home, What does all this mean for us in India?

What does it mean for broadcast rights of wham bam cricket – a goldmine for all parties involved.

Given what we know from the bid document for the 2015 -2017 season and the possibilities that Facebook Live represents, we raise questions that criss cross technology and present day regulation. If this is your kind of thing, join the conversation and tell us what you think on on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

– Will Facebook live stream be a game changer for cricket broadcast rights?

– Will Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat be allowed to bid for big ticket sport events in India?

– Will “prior” experience in broadcasting remain a hurdle for digital powerhouses who want to bid?

— Will cricket officials suggest that fans don’t stream live from the stadium since TV rights are already sold?

— Many of the clarifications in the IPL bid document itself may be upended by the sheer leap in technology.

— The definition of ‘television sets’ for the purpose of the broadcast rights bid “includes portable/hand held devices such as tablets, smartphones, other devices with screens etc.that may receive content via internet delivery.”

– Given that Facebook is already the world’s largest population of smartphone users, does Facebook qualify to bid basis definition of receiving platform?

— Clause 2.3 of ITT ( intention to tender) says a bidder would be considered an internet operator if it had a number of individual websites which taken together but not individually satisfied the criteria as to average monthly page impressions and net advertising revenues. If monthly page impressions and net advertising are the baseline, does that make Twitter and Facebook fair game?

“We built this big technology platform so we can go and support whatever the most personal and emotional and raw and visceral ways people want to communicate are,” Mark Zuckerberg said on while launching Facebook Live.

He repeated “raw” more than once and for good reason – video editors across the world will agree. Even if you work at top speed, it takes no less than an hour to juice a decent broadcast quality video of 2 minutes from raw footage. That game’s over now, it comes with the official stamp from the ruler of the world’s largest population online.

The story goes that Mark Zuckerberg whipped out Facebook after a girlfriend dumped him. He was 19. His most audacious venture – live streaming — has come after the world’s largest democracy India dumped his offer of free access to a few limited websites.

Zuckerberg has answered with the biggest business bet of the century.

(Follow us on @firstpost and on our Facebook Page. Join us for Facebook live on cricket broadcast rights Sunday night 9pm IST or you can always catch up later same place.
Nikhila Natarajan is Senior Editor, Firstpost and based in New York. Twitter | @byniknat)

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Facebook Live: Will Mark Zuckerberg rule BCCI broadcast rights?