Facebook to exclusively stream 25 Major League Baseball games a year

YouTube and MLB expand partnership

Major League Baseball owners approved the deal in a telephone meeting this week.

Twitter started streaming select baseball games last season, but with a considerable larger user base in Facebook, MLB is definitely going in the right direction. Late last year, sources told Sports Business Journal that Facebook would spend "a few billion dollars" on sports streaming deals, and given that Amazon paid $50 million for Thursday night National Football League games a year ago, the MLB arrangement might be investing in a market the social network already had a foothold in.

The agreement will mark the first time a major USA league will have its games exclusively streamed on Facebook, which has worked to ramp up its live sports offerings in recent months.

MLB Network plans to introduce in-game production elements specially designed for watching, sharing and interacting on Facebook.

"This is part of the next great leap", said industry consultant, Lee Berke, of Friday's announcement. It's also unclear who will handle broadcast duties for the weekly games.

Facebook's Major League Baseball deal underscores the fiercely competitive market of technology companies like Google (goog), Sony, Hulu, Amazon, and Twitter debuting streaming video services that include shows and sporting events traditionally shown on broadcasting and cable networks.

The move marks the first time that one of the major USA professional sports leagues has agreed to have regular season games distributed only on Facebook. The first four broadcasts will be the New York Mets versus the Philadelphia Phillies (April 4), Wednesday, April 4; the Milwaukee Brewers versus the St. Louis Cardinals (April 11), the Kansas City Royals versus the Toronto Blue Jays (April 18) and the Arizona Diamondbacks vs. the Phillies (April 26). If you are hoping to watch the game, you'd better have a Facebook account.

In November, the company was said to be looking to hire an executive to negotiate the acquisition of other broadcasting rights for sports leagues. The streamed matchups can be watched on mobile devices including smartphones and tablets, computers, as well as connected devices and smart TVs.

Last year, Facebook streamed 20 Major League Baseball games that were simulcasts of a team's local television broadcast.



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