Facebook Inks MLB Pact to Live-Stream Free Game Weekly

Facebook, in a notable move forward on its premium video strategy, has reached a deal with Major League Baseball to live-stream 20 games for free during the 2017 season.

The weekly broadcasts on Friday nights this season, available to everyone on Facebook in the U.S., will be available on the official MLB Facebook page (facebook.com/mlb). Word of Facebook’s interest in getting rights to baseball surfaced earlier this year. The social giant also bid (unsuccessfully) for NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” games package for last season, which went to Twitter, and for 2017, which went to Amazon.

The first of the 20 game broadcasts on Facebook will begin this Friday, with the Colorado Rockies at the Cincinnati Reds at 7:10 p.m. ET. Additional games will be announced at a later date. Each live-streamed game on Facebook will be a feed from one participating team’s local broadcast rights-holder, and will also continue to be carried on TV in the teams’ markets on regional sports networks.

Separately Thursday, ESL announced that it will live-stream exclusive eSports events and original content on Facebook, including content from “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” competitions and an exclusive weekly 30-minute “CS:GO” program that showcases top players, upcoming talent and tournament highlights. In total, ESL will bring more than 5,500 hours of eSports content to Facebook.

Twitter has similar deals with both MLB and ESL. Like Facebook, Twitter has rights to exclusively live-stream one Major League Baseball game per week.

“By distributing a live game per week on Facebook, Major League Baseball can re-imagine this social experience on a national scale,” Dan Reed, Facebook’s head of global sports partnerships, said in a statement.

In 2011 — well before the introduction of Facebook Live — MLB.com streamed select spring training games live on Facebook by embedding the live MLB.TV video player into the Facebook pages of the participating teams.

Currently, MLB makes use Facebook Live video to broadcast behind-the-scenes content from pro baseball. That has included Toronto Blue Jays slugger Josh Donaldson’s off-season workouts, batting practice on Opening Day, and MLB Network’s Sean Casey and Robert Flores answering questions from fans at the Chicago Cubs’ spring training camp.

For last season’s World Series — in which the Cubs prevailed in a historic championship run — MLB went live on Facebook leading up to each game, as MLB.com studio host-reporter Tim McMaster interviewed baseball legends Frank Thomas, Jeff Nelson, and Jack Morris. The league also used Facebook Live to broadcast the World Series pre- and post-game press conferences and the painting of a mural in the shadows of Chicago’s Wrigley Field.

Pictured above: Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo hits a two-run home run against the New York Mets in a July 2016 game.

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