Facebook and the MLB announced today a new live streaming partnership that will bring 20 live, regular season games to the social network. The games will air weekly on Facebook, with the first – Rockies at Reds – showing tomorrow night at 7:10 PM ET on the official MLB Facebook Page. Additional games and times will be announced later on.
The weekly broadcasts on Facebook will come from a feed of a participating team’s local broadcaster rightsholder, the companies said.
“It’s really important for us in terms of experimenting with a new partner in this area…we’re really excited about this new partnership,” noted Commissioner Rob Manfred, when announcing the organization’s plans to live stream games on Friday nights, without blackouts.
This is not the first time the MLB has leveraged Facebook for streaming its games, however. The organization has been fairly forward-thinking in this area in the past. For example, in 2011 – before the launch of Facebook Live – MLB aired some of its spring training games live on Facebook by embedding its MLB.tv player into its Facebook Page.
Since the launch of Facebook Live, the MLB has used the platform to live stream news and analysis from around the league, as with its Facebook airing of “12:25 Live with Alexa,” where it also incorporates fan comments and questions into its programming.
It has also live streamed special league ceremonies, behind-the-scenes footage with players and teams, and other live shows. It also went live for last season’s World Series for pre-game and post-game press conferences, and other events.
The new streaming deal will expand beyond these earlier efforts to actually stream live games to Facebook users – broadening access to games beyond their local markets. However, the games will only live stream to users in the U.S., the MLB noted, not baseball fans worldwide.
“Baseball games are uniquely engaging community experiences, as the chatter and rituals in the stands are often as meaningful to fans as the action on the diamond,” said Dan Reed, Facebook’s Head of Global Sports Partnerships, in a statement. “By distributing a live game per week on Facebook, Major League Baseball can re-imagine this social experience on a national scale.”
Competition in the live streaming space has been heating up in recent months, with Twitter earlier this month having announced a slate of new live shows, including those from the WNBA, BuzzFeed, Viacom and others; Google’s launch of mobile live streaming on YouTube; Amazon-owned Twitch’s expansions beyond its traditional gaming content; and Amazon’s deal to stream NFL games.
For Facebook, news of the MLB partnership comes following other, similar efforts to bring premium live streamed sports to its social network. For example, the company in March announced a deal to stream Major League Soccer matches.