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YouTube Scores MLB 13-Game Package With Exclusive Rights in U.S., Canada

YouTube, in its biggest swing yet at the sports-media biz, landed a deal with Major League Baseball to live-stream 13 games during the 2019 season worldwide — free for viewers to watch and available exclusively through YouTube in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.

YouTube’s first-ever exclusive live game distribution partnership with MLB will cover games during the second half of the 2019 MLB regular season. MLB and YouTube plan to announce a schedule of dates and matchups in the next few weeks.

The 13-game MLB package will be exclusively distributed in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico live for free on MLB’s official YouTube channel (youtube.com/user/MLB) and on a forthcoming dedicated channel on YouTube TV, Google’s $50 monthly internet TV bundle. That means those games won’t be on any TV network or the MLB.tv subscription-streaming service.

Internationally, the games package will be distributed on YouTube with the exception of 23 territories because of existing rights deals, according to MLB. The blackouts affect countries including Japan, Germany, Australia and New Zealand.

Financial terms of the deal aren’t being disclosed. YouTube’s pact is similar to the one Facebook inked last year to carry 25 MLB games exclusively; this year, Facebook scaled back its baseball rotation, with non-exclusive rights to six of the league’s games on Facebook Watch.

The deal isn’t a seismic shakeup to the TV sports landscape, but it’s a signal that Google and YouTube may be set to become more aggressive bidders as more league rights come due. In the past, YouTube has been in the mix for the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football” streaming-rights package. In a pair of smaller deals, YouTube TV inked a deal last year to exclusively carry many home games from two Major League Soccer clubs, Los Angeles Football Club and the Seattle Sounders.

The 13 MLB games on YouTube will each include pre- and post-game shows and contain MLB- and YouTube-themed content — including incorporating popular YouTube creators (yet to be named) as part of the broadcasts. The games will be produced exclusively for the YouTube platform by MLB Network.

YouTube has been a longstanding content partner for MLB and its 30 teams, with the video platform hosting highlights and classic games for over a decade. Most recently, YouTube TV was the first-ever presenting sponsor of the World Series (starting in 2017 and continuing through 2018 and 2019). Last year, YouTube also added MLB Network to the YouTube TV channel lineup.

“It’s incredible to team up with Major League Baseball for this first-of-its-kind deal together to provide both diehard baseball fans and our YouTube community with live games exclusively on YouTube and YouTube TV,” said Timothy Katz, YouTube’s head of sports and news partnerships. “With Major League Baseball’s expanding international fanbase, we are confident YouTube’s global audience will bring fans around the world together in one place to watch the games and teams they love.”

Added Chris Tully, MLB’s executive VP of global media, “YouTube is an enormously popular video platform with impressive global reach and has served as a great environment for baseball fans to consume the game they love. With the media consumption habits of our fans continuing to evolve, MLB is committed both to expanding our roster of national broadcast platforms and to presenting live games in new ways to our fans.”

MLB has been live-streaming games since 2002 on its pioneering MLB.tv service, and the league launched its YouTube channel in 2005.

In 2018, the MLB’s YouTube channel garnered 1.25 billion views, up nearly 25% from 2017. The most-watched video on the channel in 2018 was Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy’s game-winning home run in Game Three of the World Series against the Boston Red Sox; a full recap of the game is available at this link.

Other milestones over the years for MLB on YouTube included international development through licensed distribution of live-streaming regular season game simulcasts (under a 2013 deal), as well as full game archives and highlight reels distributed to baseball fans globally under a 2010 pact.

For the record, the 23 territories excluded under the YouTube-MLB live-streaming pact are: Alto Adige, Australia, Austria, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Germany, Japan, Kiribati, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, New Zealand, Palau, Samoa and Western Samoa, Switzerland, Tahiti, Taiwan, Tokelau, Tonga and Tuvalu.

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