Facebook, Snap, and Twitter Are Vying for 2018 World Cup Highlight Rights

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Bloomberg reported last week that Twitter (NYSE: TWTR), Snap (NYSE: SNAP), and Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) are reportedly bidding for the online video highlight rights for next year's World Cup soccer games. These aren't the streaming rights for these games -- Fox Sports is holding onto those -- but instead the rights to play the highlight clips from the games. 

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Grabbing these rights, if they aren't exclusive, could be a boon to Facebook, Snap, and Twitter's ambitions to stream more sports on their platforms -- and ultimately sell more ads next to the content. 

More sports, please

Nothing has been finalized yet, and it's still entirely possible that the rights could be spread across all of the companies, two of them, or none. But the companies' pursuit of these highlight video rights comes at a time when all of these social media players are expanding their online sports video content.

Twitter has signed deals with Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, and the National Football League to stream some live games on its platform. Facebook recently made a deal with the Champions League, an annual European soccer tournament, to stream games. Snap had highlights of the 2016 Olympics and exclusive NLF clips from 2016 games on its Snapchat app, and it also recently signed a deal with NBCUniversal to have content from the 2018 Winter Olympics on its app. 

Adding sports clips to social media platforms has already had some good results for the companies. About 35 million Snapchat users in the U.S. watched some of the Olympics in 2016 through the app, for a total of 230 million minutes. 

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The NFL games that streamed on Twitter had more mixed results. About 2.3 million worldwide viewers watched the first Thursday Night Football game in 2016 for at least three seconds. But the average viewership (those who stuck around longer) was just 243,000, and they watched an average of 22 minutes of the game.

Which company may benefit the most

Social video ad sales are expected to hit $4 billion this year, which is double the amount from 2016. Not all of that growth will come from selling ads around sports content of course, but social media companies are looking to use their unique platforms to appeal to advertisers who want to reach more viewers. 

Twitter reportedly charged between $1 million to $8 million for 10-game ad packages for last year's NFL game streams. But the average amount of Twitter viewers for those games wasn't all that high. If the company failed to convert a respectable amount of its millions of users to watch full NFL games, I'm skeptical that they could do any better serving up ads around soccer highlights that air in the U.S. 

I'm also a little bit skeptical that Facebook will want to pony up big dollars for the winning bid for the video highlight rights. Facebook CFO Dave Wehner was asked on the company's Q4 2016 conference call a few months ago about Facebook's past NBA streaming deals (which showed some content outside the U.S.), and Wehner said, "We're certainly going to be seeding content to get the ecosystem going, but that's not about doing big deals." Wehner noted that Facebook was more interested in revenue-sharing models than paying outright for content. In short, Facebook may not see these types of deals as all that lucrative if they have to pay a lot up front for the content. 

Snap may have the most to benefit from a potential World Cup highlight video deal for two reasons. The first is that the company's app platform is perfect for quick, easily digestible video clips -- which is exactly what sports highlights are. Second, more than half of millennial smartphone users (a coveted demographic for advertisers) are already using Snap's Snapchat app. I think the combination of its platform plus the age of its users would make Snap the best fit for this kind of deal.

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Chris Neiger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Facebook and Twitter. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.