Facebook Adds BBC As Latest Partner For Summer Sports Push With A New Streaming App

Last week, Facebook staked out its claim as a prime destination for people looking for this summer’s Olympics coverage online. Today, the BBC threw its hat into the social media ring, too — it’s putting its sports coverage into a new Timeline app. The app, which is only accessible by UK users, is in beta form (pictured here) and live already: people can currently access streams of Wimbledon. That will get ramped up in coming weeks for Olympics coverage, when it will offer some of the most comprehensive coverage yet seen on the social network — 24 streams in all — and marks the first time that the BBC will stream live events using Facebook.

The move comes at a time when the BBC is ramping up its digital activities in long-view bid that this will need to become a much stronger part of its business as more traditional revenue streams continue to decline.

The move to offer more BBC content on Facebook is significant for two reasons: it underscores how powerful Facebook is as an audience generator for traditional media companies.

“It’s a core part of the BBC’s mission to bring our quality content to audiences wherever they are, so I’m very excited to be able to offer sport fans on Facebook a really distinctive live streaming experience,” said Phil Fearnley, General Manager BBC News & Knowledge, in a statement.

On the other hand, getting someone like the BBC to stream live for the first time on the site also shows how much headway Facebook has made in terms of getting big media on board, a key route to increasing stickiness on the platform. Although NBC has a substantial Facebook integration, it’s not clear if that will extend to streaming on Facebook site, too.

The Timeline app will let users watch events — and of course comment on them in real time in live chats with other friends who are also watching. Users will also be able to see what other non-friend users are saying about the event. Pressing “like” on the feeds will let you share them with others in your network.

The app will be running alongside coverage on the BBC’s own site, as well as a connected TV application and red-button interactive services in the UK. It will be interesting to see what kind of an impact the BBC Facebook app will have on its own site’s traffic. Currently BBC Sport gets 20 million requests for streaming every month. In contrast, Facebook has 30 million monthly active users in the UK. [And yes, currently there are sponsored stories along one side of the coverage — although that is likely to change with the Olympics, per IOC rules that we pointed out last week.]

This summer’s Olympics, due to start in a month, have been referred to by Facebook as the “social olympics”. It will also be the mobile Olympics. In a report on mobile traffic during sporting events, Bytemobile estimated that sites like Facebook see traffic spikes of up to 136 percent. It believes that overall traffic on mobile networks will double during the Olympics this year as users take to their phones to read news, watch streams, snap pictures and communicate with others about the event.