As we’re about to go into the second week of Facebook’s exclusive contract with Major League Baseball, there are a few things that can be addressed as fans in Milwaukee and St. Louis discover that Wednesday’s Brewers-Cardinals game will be online only.
First, as Facebook is mired in a privacy crisis with people losing trust in droves, it has to find a way to regain that trust. It may not be able to gain those who are still angry over the Cambridge Analytica story, but live sports content could be a hedge against that. Last week, Facebook streamed the Philadelphia Phillies-New York Mets game and perhaps that wasn’t the best choice to begin. You had two extremely devoted fanbases which got quite militant about not having the game on live TV and that’s where we begin:
1. Allow local TV broadcasts
While we are an increasing mobile society, the best way to gain a mass audience is to have games on television. On average, the online audience for Phillies-Mets was only 75,000 viewers:
I jotted down the Facebook MLB audience every couple innings just to try to approximate an average minute audience. Ended up with an average of 75k.
— Michael Mulvihill (@mulvihill79) April 4, 2018
Had the game been on SNY and NBC Sports Philadelphia in the local markets, those two markets alone would have had higher audiences. Not everyone has Facebook and is online. One person who sent a message to Awful Announcing said that his in-laws, devoted Mets fans, were not on Facebook and were angry they couldn’t watch the game.
When the NFL does exclusive online games, they allow for local TV feeds. MLB needs to allow the same for its Facebook games. Put the game online in the local markets, but also give the viewers the option to watch on their local regional sports networks. Fans are creatures of habit and not having that option to watch the game on TV only creates ire.
2. Put the game on MLB.TV for free
Fans who had MLB.TV were also shut out of the Facebook feed. While Facebook is the largest social media platform, its Facebook Watch page is still in its infancy and isn’t a destination like Netflix and Amazon. Allowing the game on MLB.TV would expand that audience. And it would be for free!
3. Have some rain delay programming ready
Last week, Facebook had the misfortune of Phillies-Mets being delayed by rain, so the 1 p.m. ET start was pushed back to 2:45 p.m. You can’t control the weather and regional sports networks always have rain delay programming on the ready whether it’s features or a previously aired show. Instead, MLB on Facebook put the above slide with ambient sounds from the park playing in the background.
Rather than have that slide run for the entire delay, have the announcers answer fan questions or have something from the MLB archives on the ready, just in case.
4. Have a regular crew
Facebook will have different analysts each week, ex-players associated with the team involved in that day’s game. To build some loyalty, these telecasts should have a regular play-by-play and analyst. If you’re going to build a package, having a consistent crew will help. Rotating analysts with the regular crew might be in order, but there won’t be much chemistry amongst the announcers if you have different people each week.
What do you want? What do you want to see? Where can Facebook improve? Let us know in your comments.