Major League Baseball will broadcast 25 games exclusively on Facebook Watch this season, the first such time a major North American sports league has aired its games only on a social network.
MLB Network will produce the broadcasted games, which primarily take place on weekday afternoons, beginning with an April 4 Philadelphia Phillies-at-New York Mets contest and an April 11 meeting between the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals.
Facebook live-streamed 20 games last season in a weekly Friday night time slot, but those were national simulcasts of a local broadcast whereas, in the 2018 partnership, the Facebook feed will replace local coverage and out-of-market access on platforms like mlb.tv.
This replicates the window of exclusivity ESPN has for its Sunday night games, only in a much lower-profile time slot. That is expected to generate innovation around the game’s broadcast presentation with interactive elements and production value geared specifically geared toward Facebook’s platform.
“This partnership with Facebook reflects the ongoing commitment of Major League Baseball and our Clubs to connect with people around the world,” Tony Petitti, MLB’s deputy commissioner of business and media, said in a statement. “It is a major creative step forward in serving our diverse, passionate community of fans, who will enjoy a uniquely interactive experience watching our games on Facebook each week.”
Facebook continues to grow its live sports streaming portfolio, which includes also Champions League soccer. The only other exclusive broadcasts have been in smaller conference college football and basketball.
As part of the baseball deal — which Bloomberg reported to be in excess of $30 million — MLB will also produced on-demand highlights for every game and weekly recaps for each club to air on Facebook.
“We’re excited to extend our partnership with Major League Baseball to make Facebook Watch a home for exclusive, live games every week this season,” Dan Reed, Facebook’s head of global sports partnerships, said in a statement. “Community and conversation are central to both baseball and Facebook, and MLB Network’s innovative broadcasts will bring these interactive and social elements of the game to life to fans around the world in new ways on our platform.”