Major League Baseball (MLB) has finalised a partnership with Facebook that will see 25 games streamed exclusively on the social media giant's Watch platform in the US.
Starting with the fixture between the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets on 4th April, the featured games will take place on weekday afternoons US time, primarily Wednesdays. MLB and Facebook will update the schedule on a monthly basis, and the agreement limits Facebook to one match per week.
Facebook will also have rights to show the selected games on a non-exclusive basis globally. The broadcasts will be produced by MLB Network, the league’s dedicated TV channel, while Facebook will have the right to experiment with social integration and graphics during the transmission.
In addition to each live broadcast, MLB will produce and distribute specially curated content, including on-demand highlight packages for every regular season game, which will be made available on Facebook Watch.
The financial terms of the agreement have not been officially announced, but the Bloomberg news agency reports that sources close to the deal say that Facebook has paid between US$30 million and US$35 million for the rights package.
"This partnership with Facebook reflects the ongoing commitment of MLB and our clubs to connect with people around the world," said Tony Petitti, deputy commissioner of business and media for MLB. "It is a major creative step forward in serving our diverse, passionate community of fans, who will enjoy a uniquely interactive experience watching our games each week."
"We're excited to extend our partnership with Major League Baseball to make Facebook Watch a home for exclusive, live games every week this season," added Dan Reed, Facebook's head of global sports partnerships. "Community and conversation are central to both baseball and Facebook, and MLB Network's innovative broadcasts will bring these interactive and social elements of the game to life to fans around the world in new ways on our platform."
The deal marks the first time that a major US league has agreed to show regular season games exclusively on Facebook, which has been expanding its portfolio of live sports. Last year, the social media company had rights to 20 non-exclusive MLB games, while it also struck a deal with Fox Sports to stream the Uefa Champions League final.