Here's more proof for anybody who figures Facebook's total world domination is inevitable.
For 10 days starting Thursday, Facebook's sports action will go way beyond snippets of T-ball and coed after-work softball. In a move to be formally announced today, it will carry live ESPN TV coverage of 225 college men's and women's basketball games from conference tournaments.
The idea is to give ESPN's ESPN3 broadband service, which annually streams 4,000 sports events, another outlet for games it carries. As ESPN3 vice president Damon Phillips says, "(It's) another front door to our content."
As far as Phillips is aware, these will be the first live sports, outside of some martial arts action, available via Facebook. And, says Phillips, who played linebacker for Stanford in the 1990s, it likely won't be ESPN's last Facebook outing. "We see this as a big opportunity," he says. "You fish where the fish are."
ESPN3, which itself has multiple channels, certainly has tonnage to offer up: Saturday, for example, it will carry 195 live hours from 94 sports events.
But not everybody will be able to go to Facebook and reel in ESPN's games, which will include 137 men's games carried on ESPN's Championship Week TV coverage of conference tournaments.
ESPN3's content, including the games on Facebook, is free to about 73 million subscribers who get their cable TV or broadband service from carriers who distribute ESPN3.
Anybody trying to log in to ESPN3.com or to its games via Facebook, Phillips says, will either be recognized or will need to provide simple self-authentication.
Overall, ESPN3's live events include simulcasts of ESPN's TV coverage as well as online-only coverage produced by the same pool of on-air announcers and production staffers who otherwise work on ESPN TV coverage. ESPN3 also carries events produced outside the USA and not by ESPN -- ESPN3's cricket coverage, Phillips says, can draw as many users as some college football action. But U.S. sports provide the service's meat 'n' taters. And in that, he says, "Our feeling is ESPN3 is a TV network. If something wouldn't be good enough for ESPN or ESPN2, it wouldn't be good enough for ESPN3."
And ESPN3's upcoming games, which also will be accessible on Facebook via colleges' individual pages, mean that finally -- finally! -- viewers can watch, say, Duke-North Carolina, and know all of those Facebook pictures of pets in costumes are close by if things get tense.
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