Facebook is testing a new feature that could enhance the sports viewing experience on its platform. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Facebook is reportedly testing a “Watch Videos Together” feature on Messenger that could enhance the communal experience of watching live sports on the social media platform.
This innovation was initially spotted in Messenger’s code by a tech entrepreneur named Ananay Arora. Following up on Arora’s lead, TechCrunch reached out to Facebook, which confirmed that an “internal test” was underway.
Peter Hutton, Facebook’s director of global live sports partnerships and programming, emphasized in a recent conversation with SportTechie that Facebook was experimenting with sports, asking questions such as “How can we make the sports viewing experience a better experience with Facebook?” He also stressed both the communal nature of viewing sports and the interest in incorporating other Facebook-owned entities such as Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Oculus.
Each sporting event on Facebook Watch offers viewers the opportunity to add comments. During Facebook’s first exclusive MLB game, some fans were bothered by the stream of comments, not realizing there was an “off” button.
“We talk a lot with great pride, and rightly so, about being able to chat to your friends while watching a game and consume things in a more interactive way,” Hutton said. “But there’s also an audience there that doesn’t want to do that. We have to make it open to both those groups of people.
“And then it’s not just ‘chat while you’re watching the game,’ but it’s ‘chat to people you want to hear from while you’re watching a game.’ How do you make that more possible so you encourage people to watch in groups as opposed to watching with everybody who wants to watch that match? There’s a range of experiences we can make available to people.”
While some fans might want to hear from and converse with new people, most want to self-select their viewing companions, whether that’s through a classic Facebook newsfeed, a Twitter timeline, or from a couch in front of the TV. If “Watch Videos Together” works well, that could be a boon for Facebook’s live sports experience. The community and connectivity of social video can lead to viral moments, and providing fans the choice to curate their viewing community will likely appeal to many.