YouTube is getting another round of at-bats with America’s pastime.
Major League Baseball and YouTube announced a renewal of their global pact for live baseball broadcasts, with the internet video giant set to stream 21 games — for free — over the course of the 2021 regular season.
It’s the third season of YouTube’s deal with the league to livestream games, although last year’s MLB season was truncated by the COVID-19 crisis and YouTube carried only four games in September 2020. News of the renewal comes after YouTube TV last month launched MLB.TV as an add-on option for subscribers to watch out-of-market MLB games.
This year, the “MLB Game of the Week Live on YouTube” will premiere April 7 at 1 p.m. ET, with the defending American League champion Tampa Bay Rays facing the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Additional upcoming games include the L.A. Angels vs. Houston Astros (April 22 at 8 p.m. ET) and the Minnesota Twins vs. Cleveland Indians (April 28 at 1 p.m. ET). Future matchups will be announced as the schedules are set throughout the season.
Baseball fans will be able to access each broadcast for free from any device, including the free YouTube app on smart TVs, from MLB’s YouTube channel, or on a dedicated channel on YouTube TV. All 21 broadcasts this season will again be produced by MLB Network’s production team, with pregame coverage starting 30 minutes prior to each game’s scheduled start time.
New for 2021 is the “YouTube Player of the Game,” where fans watching on mobile devices and computers can vote for which player will receive a trophy during the postgame show.
Other features exclusive to YouTube include the return of the live chat featuring game commentary from more than 40 sports-focused YouTube creators and in-game polls. YouTube TV subscribers also will have the ability to watch replays of key plays and get real-time stats from the game.
“The fun and creative engagement opportunities featured in the MLB Game of the Week on YouTube allow us to connect with baseball fans on another level and bring them closer to the game,” Dominick Balsamo, MLB’s SVP of global media and business development, said in a statement.
MLB’s first season of exclusive game broadcasts on YouTube was a 13-game package produced by MLB Network that began in July 2019 generated 1.2 million live average views per game, according to the companies.