Facebook wants to get into the game with Sports Stadium

Social network offers a hub for real-time stats and play-by-play information, as well as a forum for discussion about games in progress.

Mere days away from finding out which two teams will be going to Super Bowl 50, Facebook is gearing up to get into the action.

The social networking giant announced late Wednesday the launch of Sports Stadium, a sports hub where Facebook users can get live scores and stats about games while discussing plays and players with friends watching the same game. In addition to play-by-play information, users will also have access to commentary from journalists and experts as well as information on where to find the game on TV.

"People already turn to Facebook to celebrate, commiserate, and talk trash with their friends and other fans," Steve Kafka, a Facebook product manager, wrote in a blog statement. "Now we've built a place devoted to sports so you can get the feeling you're watching the game with your friends even when you aren't together."

Facebook's Sports Stadium is launching first on iPhones, with expansion promised to other platforms in the coming weeks.

The Menlo Park, California-based Internet titan already attracts more than a billion users every day, but it needs to figure out how to attract its next billion - and keep them engaged longer. The number of people using its service at least once a month rose to 1.55 billion during the quarter ended September 30, up 14 percent from the same period a year ago and up 4 percent from its tally in June.

For Facebook, more users spending more time on the service means more opportunities to show them advertisements, the way the company makes money. It's building out various tools so that advertisers can create better ads, even in developing countries where videos and other data-rich content are too burdensome for slow and expensive connections.

Facebook has introduced prompts to encourage users to talk about current events, a clear effort to keep its current fans enthusiastic about visiting the site. But by offering a second-screen experience to enhance the sporting event, Facebook is borrowing a page from rival social network Twitter's playbook, so to speak.

Sports Stadium is not unlike an initiative the microblogging site launched in 2012 with NBCUniversal to corral the millions of tweets that were expected to be sent during the Olympic Games in London by athletes, fans, and NBC TV personalities onto a single Twitter page. As part of the partnership, NBC promoted Twitter with links to online athlete interviews and videos.

It wasn't immediately clear if Facebook had lined up any content partnerships for its Sports Stadium. Facebook representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Facebook is rolling out Sports Stadium on Thursday to NFL fans using devices that run iOS, Apple's mobile operating system. The hub is expected to be expanded to other platforms "in the coming weeks," Kafka wrote, as well as other sports around the world such as soccer and basketball.

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