Eurosport chief set to lead Facebook’s push into sports market

Social media company Facebook is reportedly set to signal its growing ambitions in the sports rights market by hiring Peter Hutton, chief executive of international sports broadcaster Eurosport.

News of Hutton’s switch has been reported by multiple outlets, with UK newspaper The Guardian stating that he is not expected to join Facebook until after Eurosport’s coverage of the 2018 winter Olympic Games, which runs from February 9-25.

In June 2015, Eurosport’s parent company, Discovery Communications, acquired Olympic Games rights in 50 European territories in a four-Games deal with the International Olympic Committee, from 2018 to 2024. Pyeongchang 2018 represents the first Games under this deal.

Facebook gave a signal of its growing ambitions with a significant bid last year for rights to Twenty20 cricket tournament the Indian Premier League. Facebook made an ultimately unsuccessful offer for digital rights in the Indian subcontinent across the five editions from 2018 to 2022.

The Guardian said the move for Hutton follows Facebook’s global search for a head of live sport after its failure to land IPL rights. However, it noted that his appointment will come after the February 9 deadline for bids under the tender process for domestic rights to the Premier League, the top division of English football. Facebook has been heavily linked with participation in the tender, which was launched last month and spans the three seasons from 2019-20 to 2021-22.

Facebook, along with fellow social media company Twitter and internet firm Amazon, has been steadily increasing its presence in the sports content market in recent months.

Facebook struck its latest significant deal last week. Esports event operator ESL agreed a new partnership with Facebook that will make the platform the exclusive broadcast partner for its two main competitions.

The CS:GO Pro League and ESL One circuit, with full English and Portuguese coverage, will be available exclusively on the Facebook platform and through embedded streams on the respective event websites.

Hutton joined Eurosport in March 2015 after leaving his role as co-chief executive of the MP & Silva agency to return to the broadcasting industry.