The first pay-per-view sporting event happened more than 60 years ago, when boxing fans mailed $2 to the TelePrompTer company to watch Floyd Patterson retake the title. Of course, consumers’ media consumption habits have changed quite a bit since 1960, something Facebook is banking on as it unveils a plan to turn its live events into a pay-per-view option for sports leagues that broadcast their games on the social media platform.
According to CNBC, Facebook foresees a future where high school athletic teams and smaller sports leagues are “using the feature that allows users to make money for virtual attendance and keep ticket profits — for now.” Facebook also plans to invest in paid online events, in which customers would buy virtual tickets to watch live-streamed events, similar to pay-per-view.
“For decades, media networks such as HBO and Showtime have used the pay-per-view fees, especially for boxing,” the CNBC report stated. “WWE and mixed martial arts company UFC also earned money from pay-per-view events. And the business model is precisely that — paying to watch an event, no subscription needed.”
Rob Shaw, director of sports media and league partnerships for Facebook, told the network that the move could help to revitalize pay-per-view. “People are willing to experience a moment,” he said, but added: “One thing I’ve noticed, though: I don’t think people are willing to immediately start with a subscription.”
Facebook launched its paid online events last year, which is now available in 44 markets around the world. Its April earnings report showed Facebook with 2.8 billion active users each month and 1.8 billion daily active users. In other words, CNBC noted, the audience is there.
Last May, Facebook debuted Venue, an app designed to give at-home users a digital second-screen experience at live events. And in March, the social media giant announced a partnership with LiveXLive Media to bring viewers a series of pay-per-view shows.