Last season, Facebook paid MLB in the neighborhood of $30 million for the rights to stream 25 exclusive games via Facebook Watch. It was seen as the possible start of a partnership, and another way for baseball to reach a different audience while boosting Facebook’s sports presence.
One year later, and it looks like that experiment is pretty much over. Facebook and MLB are still collaborating, but on a smaller scale, much less significant scale.
Via Morning Consult:
MLB and Facebook Inc. have inked a new one-year agreement for the 2019 season, cutting the number of games livestreamed on the social media platform to six, down from 26 the previous season, and making them non-exclusive, unlike 25 of the games broadcast last year.
A Facebook spokesperson said late Thursday that six regular-season games will appear for free on Facebook Watch — one per month — in the United States and globally, excluding select international markets. Games on Facebook will be subject to blackouts in local markets while they air on regional sports networks.
That’s obviously a pretty drastic drawdown, and the lack of exclusivity is also a big sign that last year’s deal didn’t really work out. It definitely caused some frustration for viewers, especially those who had purchased MLB.TV and were unable to watch the Facebook games outside of Facebook’s own service, which was occasionally less than reliable. There will still be a revenue component to this deal, but it won’t be anything near last year’s price:
Facebook said MLB will have an opportunity to sell a sponsorship against the livestreamed broadcasts. If it does so, it would retain 100 percent of the revenue, though it’s unclear if and how it would be distributed among all 30 clubs.
MLB Network will once again produce the Watch-specific broadcasts that’ll include interactive and social elements and user-generated content, among additional features, Facebook said.
MLB obviously does plenty of streaming themselves, having in many ways pioneered the streaming subscription model via MLB.TV and the technology that was eventually spun off into BAMTech. Whether they look to partner with a different media company for a similar deal in the future remains to be seen. And hopefully the six games in 2019 avoid porn bots this time.