Facebook has played it cool on live sports rights, but it’s quietly amassing a serious lineup.
Facebook has struck a deal with Major League Baseball to stream 20 games live on the social network. They’ll be spaced out one game per week on Friday night, starting this week.
That adds to a growing list of smaller niche sports that Facebook has deals to stream, including Mexican soccer, American soccer, table tennis, and Crossfit. Professional baseball marks its biggest addition yet.
“Baseball games are uniquely engaging community experiences, as the chatter and rituals in the stands are often as meaningful to fans as the action on the diamond,” said Dan Reed, Facebooks Head of Global Sports Partnerships, in a statement. By distributing a live game per week on Facebook, Major League Baseball can re-imagine this social experience on a national scale.
Tech companies have been slowly but surely buying into streaming rights for live sports just as those companies are also investing in live video. The biggest splash came in 2016 when Twitter won the rights to stream the NFL’s Thursday night games. Since then, Twitter has also made deals for baseball games. Amazon jumped into the scene this year by grabbing those Thursday NFL rights.
Sports leagues, meanwhile, are figuring out how to best make money from their live events as TV viewership declines. Tech companies, with massive audiences, deep pockets, and advertiser relationships, are a good match.
Major League Baseball has been particularly experimental this season, having already worked out a deal with Twitter to also stream Friday games. Facebook got the rights to different games.
Facebook in particular has been somewhat coy about its interest in live sports. CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently said he doesn’t see paying for live sports rights as a “long-term goal.” Others in the industry have called bullsh*t on that.