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It's the rare college sports fan who prefers to watch a game on television without a so-called second screen in hand -- a smartphone or tablet, anything that helps keep tabs on other people's reactions to the game on social media.
Recently, schools and conferences have begun experimenting with what Mercer associate athletics director for external relations Daniel Tate calls an "all-in-one engagement platform." That platform's name? Facebook.
The Mercer men's basketball team -- Duke fans surely remember the name -- will play Davidson on Tuesday at 7p.m. ET, and the game will be one of the first Division I college basketball games broadcast exclusively live on Facebook.
The game will be streamed on the Mercer athletics page and shared by the Southern Conference, Atlantic 10 and Sports on Facebook, pages that altogether have more than 4million likes and give the game potentially a worldwide audience. Like any Facebook Live broadcast, viewers' comments will stream alongside the action; Mercer said it would have communications staffers monitoring comments and responding to fans during the game. There will also be promotions to encourage fans to post photos of themselves in Mercer gear or pictures of their home setups as they watch the game. Some fans will have opportunities to win free Bears gear.
Other engagement ideas include soliciting questions to ask Mercer coach Bob Hoffman at halftime and efforts to provide exclusive behind-the-scenes photos and interviews on Mercer athletics' Instagram story. (Facebook owns Instagram.)
"We're not going to halfway do it," Tate told USA TODAY Sports. "We're going to fully utilize Facebook and the engagement piece."
In short, Tate hopes fans will watch and engage socially with the broadcast not on two different screens but the same one.
Mercer (4-2) chose its most high-profile home game for its first foray into Facebook Live. The Bears are facing Davidson (4-1), a perennially strong midmajor team led by longtime coach Bob McKillop.
Mercer hopes some combination of the matchup, unique user engagement and the platform itself will allow Tuesday's game to reverberate beyond the final buzzer.
"We know this is the future," Tate said. "It's a way for us to get our name out there while trying to be creative and think outside the box. ... This is where the future of sports is going.
"Our goal is to be one of the trendsetters."
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