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Twitter to Live-Stream MLB, NHL Games for Free In Latest Sports Plays

Twitter, hell-bent on landing sports rights over the several months, has entered into a pact with MLB Advanced Media to stream live weekly games from Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League.

With the deal, Twitter now has teamed up with the U.S.’s four biggest pro-sports leagues for some kind of video programming — a bet that live sports content will drive fans to Twitter in larger numbers, and keep them on the platform for longer periods of time to follow and participate in online discussions.

Twitter’s rights to the MLB and NHL games are effective immediately. However, the companies are not releasing info on launch dates for the games on Twitter. A schedule for the MLB and NHL games will be available at a later date; the hockey league currently is in the off-season, with no NHL games to be played until October.

The once-per-week live streams of out-of-market MLB and NHL games will be available free on Twitter, to both logged-in and logged-out users in the U.S. subject to local TV blackout restrictions. The games will be exclusive for Twitter among free over-the-top platforms, although subscribers of MLB and NHL subscription services also will be able to stream them. MLB games on Twitter also will be available worldwide, except in select international territories.

Under the pact, Twitter has committed to pay a certain level in ad sales generated from the live games; after that threshold is met, the sides will split additional ad revenue.

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In addition, under the Twitter-MLBAM pact, over-the-top network 120 Sports will produce an exclusive nightly sports highlight and recap show, “The Rally,” which will cover multiple sports a la ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”

“Twitter has long been a great partner and platform for both baseball and hockey fans as they follow their favorite teams and players every day,” said Kenny Gersh, MLBAM’s executive VP of business. “We know fans will embrace what this wide-ranging partnership brings – expanded and reliable access to live baseball and hockey and the introduction of Twitter’s first daily live highlight show delivered intuitively to a platform where they’re actively engaged with the games.”

Added Twitter CFO Anthony Noto, “MLBAM has pioneered streaming live digital video and we could not be more excited to partner with them on live games as well as ‘The Rally,’ giving our audience the live sports events they are already talking about on one screen on Twitter.”

Twitter’s lineup of sports deals is more like a sampler platter than a full-course meal, and doesn’t seriously threaten the TV industry with the prospect that fans will suddenly flock en masse to Twitter instead of tuning in on broadcast or cable television.

The first big sports pact for Twitter was with the NFL for 10 games on the “Thursday Night Football” schedule this season. Last week, the social company announced a deal with the NBA for two live shows (but no live games). In other sports deals, Twitter pacted with Pac-12 Networks to carry 150 events and with Campus Insiders for rights to live-stream more than 300 college sports events from the Mountain West Conference, Patriot League and West Coast Conference.

MLBAM, established in June 2000, manages the official league site, MLB.com, and each of the 30 individual team sites,  as well as the MLB.TV subscription streaming service. The unit last summer entered a six-year deal with the NHL to manage the hockey league’s TV broadcasting and internet-streaming operations. Disney is reportedly buying a stake on MLBAM.

MLBAM is one of the owners of 120 Sports, which launched two years ago. Other backers include Time Inc., the NHL, the PGA Tour, Campus Insiders and Silver Chalice.

Pictured above: Chicago Cubs shortstop Addison Russell

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