- Facebook officially signed a deal with Major League Baseball (MLB) to stream 20 games this season, Business Insider reported. The first game, between the Colorado Rockies and the Cincinnati Reds, streams tonight at 7:10 p.m. ET.
- Streams are weekly on Friday nights and focused on nationally telecast games. According to Facebook, the broadcasts will be drawn from a feed from one of the participating team's local broadcast rightsholders, which means they aren't exclusive.
- Rumors of the MLB deal have been swirling since as early as February when sports media consultants noted the social giant was "aggressively going after sports content."
While Facebook's partnership with the MLB has reportedly been in "advanced talks" for quite awhile, its confirmation highlights the importance professional U.S. sports have to digital platforms that are looking to get an edge on traditional TV. Facebook is pushing full-steam ahead into a video-first future as ad load slows, and premium, TV-like content appears to more and more be the linchpin of that strategy. The company is expected to debut about a dozen original programs, both long- and short-form, around the Cannes Lions advertising festival next month.
MLB, for its part, is likely grappling with the same ratings declines other sports organizations, including the NFL, have weathered recently. Baseball has been particularly criticized for having games that are too long and often boring, which has turned off young viewers who might be easier to recapture on a digital-first platform like Facebook. MLB has also been making moves into the digital streaming space with its company BAMTech, which owned in conjunction with Disney and the NHL.
The formal announcement of the deal comes after Facebook, along with Twitter and YouTube, recently lost a bid to stream 10 NFL Thursday Night Football games to Amazon.