We are now in an era where Facebook gets an exclusive MLB game each week. By exclusive, it means the game won’t be on television and there will not be a local feed. Overall, 25 games will be streamed on the social media service. We discussed the development last month when the deal was announced.
Restricting viewers to only watching the games through either on your mobile device, tablet, computer or connected TV set top box (i.e., Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Roku, etc.) is a radical departure from television.
This month’s schedule:
April 4 — Philadelphia at New York Mets
April 11 — Milwaukee at St. Louis
April 18 — Kansas City at Toronto
April 26 — Arizona at Philadelphia
Other games will be announced at a later date.
Streaming has been used by MLB to complement TV, but with this Facebook deal, it’s going to be the only way to watch. The selected games will be mid-week afternoon contests, but the thinking is that unlike TV where primetime is at night, social media’s primetime is during the daytime. So MLB and Facebook are hoping that traffic and consumption will be higher.
Will it work? The reaction will likely be negative, especially when fans won’t have their local announcers calling the games. With this being a MLB Network production, it’s likely that the diehard fans who access the streams will not be kind on social media.
However, MLB is not depending on the diehard fans in this contract. It’s hoping to reach not just a younger audience in the United States, but that Facebook will reach fans outside of the country. The games won’t be geotagged, so if you’re outside of the U.S., you can watch without any territorial restrictions.
It’s not just MLB which is doing this. We’re seeing local MLS teams going exclusively online as well. While the NFL has awarded individual games to Yahoo and Verizon, it’s also provided local TV feeds which is not the case for MLB’s Facebook contract.
MLB also announced a deal with Twitter for the 2018 season, but that will not be exclusive and fans in the local markets will be able to watch those games on TV.
For Facebook, this follows the strategy of providing content for its Watch platform. While it has had exclusive college football and basketball games, UEFA Champions League and other sports, this is the biggest feather in its cap for its service.
Whether this will lead to other leagues coming on board is anyone’s guess, but fans will have to watch and access Facebook to see the games. The Great MLB on Facebook Experiment is about to begin and it will be interesting to see the reaction to the online-only experience.
But it’s not off to a great start. Hopefully, the rain isn’t a sign of bigger issues to come.