The numbers were pretty underwhelming. Facebook livestreamed Wayne Rooney’s Testimonial to its 1.7B worldwide fans – and got little over 250K live viewers by my reckoning between Manchester United and Wayne Rooney’s own page.


Off and running: Rooney live on Facebook

Not great when you are talking about one of the world’s biggest football clubs. Pretty poor when you compare it with BuzzFeed blowing up a melon and getting 800K live and over 11M in catch-up.

But it worked. Bar a short loss of sound before kick-off it worked brilliantly. Great quality, all on my iPhone. The endless stream of comments was more riveting than the game. But what’s not to like?

Quite a lot if you’re SKY or BT. Both these great businesses are locked in a deadly embrace, slugging it out, spending billions. They’re flies in a jar.

SKY don’t own their market or their viewers. They’re selling a product they are buying for an ever increasing fortune. There’s no loyalty, no family. Lose football, lose your business. BT still don’t get it.


In danger: Sky don’t own their audience

SKY’s market cap is an impressive £15B. Good job. Facebook’s is $350B and climbing. One of the world’s top five companies rivalling Apple and Microsoft. They are a giant, a frightening great giant with a 1.7B audience sitting there on tap. It’s their algorithm. Not even Rupert in his monstrous pomp has ever had such reach – and control over the audience.

More and more the word “media” attaches to Facebook. They’re the dominant “media” in the US elections. And they know it. Whatever happened to the quirky social media platform for compulsive over-sharers?


Guts: Rupert Murdoch

The Rooney numbers were small. But testimonials aren’t the real thing. Murdoch bucked a market and nearly sank his business launching SKY but had the sheer guts and determination to win. I remember The Sun’s cash flow saved their backsides. But next to Facebook they are pygmies. They all are.

Facebook will bid for and win the overseas rights for the Premier League then bid and win the whole thing. They will create the first £1B match – 200M people worldwide paying a fiver. They might even pick up SKY just to get the cameras. Or BT if only to fix the broadband speeds. If you generate $20B revenue a year you could swallow them for cash. Or anything or anyone.

Oh. And don’t look to the clubs for support. Last time I went onto a football club website a hand shot out the screen and grabbed my wallet. With friends like that.

Wayne’s nil-all snore-draw against his old club Everton may have been dull viewing. Facebook were merely planning where and when to drop the bomb.


Steve Sampson is former Assistant, Northern and Scottish Editor of The Sun newspaper, a Director of Trinity Mirror publications including the Daily Record and Sunday Mail as well as Business Insider. He was a launch presenter of Radio5 Live, founder of First Press Publishing and contributes to the BBC. He is an investor/owner across a series of digital initiatives and a media adviser.

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