The Orlando Pride drew a record crowd to its NWSL home opener. The game also drew 500,000 online fans, watching via Facebook in the first live stream of its kind.
By
Erin Byrnes

Source:
Zela
3 May 2016 - 7:41 AM  UPDATED 3 May 2016 - 7:41 AM

File this one under “What a time to be alive” - it’s now possible to stream sporting events live on Facebook.

Yes, that Facebook. The one that we all complain about constantly, but just can’t seem to quit.

There was a fairly very key event last week that will have big implications for women’s sport.

The Orlando Pride, a first year team in the US Women’s National Soccer League, held their home opener against Houston Dash with a league record 23,403 fans in attendance.

But, over 500,000 fans also watched at home, thanks to a live stream running on star player Alex Morgan’s Facebook page.

For a league that has no broadcast deal (save for six playoff games), that many extra sets of eyes is invaluable.

(Sidenote: if you’re not on board the NWSL bandwagon yet, there’s plenty of room. Here’s a handy guide.)

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Why does it matter?

Yes, it was a US soccer game, but it has wider applications. (Although this one had an Australian connection, with Matildas Laura Alleway and Steph Catley taking the field for the Pride and fellow national team players Ellie Brush and Lydia Williams rostered to the Dash.)

Sure, live streaming sport isn’t a new thing but viewing a sporting event via Facebook a big deal purely because of the accessibility and ease at which we can use it.

Everyone has Facebook. Your mum does, your nieces do, and in a lot of cases, your grandma does.

We’ve all struggled to find live streams of games, elbow deep in dodgy Russian-language sites batting down pop ups like a 21st century version of the Disney classic Fantasia.  

But Facebook is such a natural part of our daily routines, many people were not only able to find the live stream easily, they were able to stumble upon it and tune in.

It’s telling that the game was also broadcast on YouTube, but was only seen by 76,000 fans, and not the 554,000 the Facebook stream saw.

What’s even more impressive is that there was very little advertising. Morgan didn’t even tweet or post about the event beforehand.

It’s women’s sports fans that will benefit the most from this development.

The WNBL was unable to find a broadcast partner last season - while a TV contract would be ideal, imagine how cool it would be to see a Townsville Fire match live via Suzy Batkovic’s social media page.

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The WBBL, the Matildas, and women’s AFL have all drawn high TV ratings in the past year. So why does the WNBL still remain in broadcast limbo?

Sports that either don’t have TV deals, or limited deals - which are more often than not, women’s sports - are set to benefit the most, thanks to fiercely passionate fanbases starving for coverage of their team.

Often with women’s sports, if you don’t go to the game, there’s no way to see it. With this development, new young fans - who are adept at technology - have easy access to a product they would otherwise have limited exposure to.

Now that's something to look forward to!