Discovery chief says Facebook sports play more about marketing

AMSTERDAM—Discovery is big into sports, particularly in Europe where the company owns Eurosport. As it looks to expand, Amazon and Facebook are emerging as competitors.

Jean-Briac Perrette, president and CEO of Discovery Networks International, said there’s been a lot of talk about Facebook and Amazon entering the sports space, but warned it’s not for the faint of heart. He also suggested that Facebook, which has recently focused its sports rights deal on Asian markets, might be using sports as just another way to spark user growth.

“Are they interested in sport as a long-term strategy, or as a marketing tool?” Perrette asked. “Our PGA agreement is until 2030 and we’re hoping it goes beyond that.”

As a sign of Discovery’s long-term interest in sports, the company recently signed a $2 billion, 12-year deal with the PGA to develop and launch content on digital, TV, mobile and new OTT platforms outside of the U.S.

RELATED: Discovery drops $2B on PGA Tour rights outside of U.S.

The service is launching with a live experience in early 2019, and Perrette said the company will build up the other modules of the service over time. For example, he said if PGA viewers in Spain only tune in when Sergio Garcia is playing, then Discovery wants to have Sergio cams available for fans.

Beyond user experience, Perrette said the PGA partnership is about developing capabilities around customer acquisition and storytelling that gives the service something unique.

He talked about recent production tricks used by Eurosport during the 2018 Winter Olympics that could be translated to what Discovery is doing with the PGA. He mentioned the Cube, an augmented reality studio Eurosport used in Pyeongchang.

As Discovery works to get its PGA offering up and running, Perrette said the company is looking at how it can apply what it learns to other sports. Discovery already has cycling and tennis rights and could be looking to get more.

“It’s about using the technology to bring to life the stories,” Perrette said.