Facebook is building a sports hub to rival ESPN

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Game on.

Facebook has announced the launch of Facebook Sports Stadium, its first shot at trying to provide the kind of real-time sports experience that is dominated by Twitter and ESPN.

"With 650 million sports fans, Facebook is the world's largest stadium. People already turn to Facebook to celebrate, commiserate, and talk trash with their friends and other fans," wrote product manager Steve Kafka in a blog post announcing the launch.

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Facebook is going to build a hub around each big game to pull in a variety of content including posts from friends, posts from a variety of other pages including experts, teams, leagues and journalists, live stats and play-by-play as well as overall game info such as what TV channel is broadcasting the game.

"You can follow the action as the game unfolds with a live play-by-play, and even like, comment on, and share individual plays," Kafka wrote. "You can also get up to speed quickly with live scores and the most discussed plays. It's a second-screen experience that we hope makes watching the broadcast even better."

Sports Stadium is launching on Thursday and is currently only available on iPhones in the U.S. There are plans to bring it to other phones and countries. The hub will start with football, basketball and soccer, with more sports to come.

Screenshot 2 Experts and Stats
Screenshot 2 Experts and Stats

Image: Facebook

The new hub will be a feature within Facebook, a small departure from the company's recent practice of breaking out new ideas into standalone apps, such as Rooms, Notify, Paper, Camera, Messenger and others.

Sports stadium is also notable for a design feature that mimics Twitter — updates appear chronologically. This makes sense, as following a live event tends to lend itself to this system, but is a very incremental step away from Facebook's Timeline, which is curated by an algorithm and is not chronological.

Facebook has been methodically experimenting with ways to break into the real-time conversation. The World Cup provided a testing ground for a real-time feature that looks a lot like Stadium. More recently, Facebook has been using live-streaming to create a more real-time experience around the election.

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