Facebook, the #1 social media giant, has made a deal with Major League Baseball (MLB) for exclusive streaming rights to 25 games for the upcoming 2018 season. These games will be on weekday afternoons, primarily on Wednesdays. Facebook has been trying to add a steady stream of sporting activities and events to its repertoire, but this will be the first time that a U.S. major sports league has agreed to give exclusive rights to Facebook. The deal was approved unanimously by MLB team owners. Although the actual amount of the deal was not released, it was estimated to have cost Facebook up to $35 million.
While the games will be produced by the MLB Network to have the traditional look and feel of normal broadcast TV, Facebook has the rights to experiment with social interaction, graphics and other enhancements. Facebook aimes to connect with younger viewers, drawing them in by using a look that is more familiar with its users.
Facebook has become increasingly more interested in the sports market. In fact, Facebook reports having over 650 million sports fans worldwide currently using its platform. The social media giant believes that getting into the sports market will result in increased users, while keeping current users more engaged through live programming. In the first half of 2017, Facebook had over 3,500 live sports broadcasts. However, only a small percentage of those were actually paid partnerships, and none of them were as high-profile as its deals with Fox Sports for UEFA Champions League soccer and the MLB deal this year.
Last year, Facebook had tried to bid for rights to the Indian Premier Cricket League, offering its largest known bid of $600 million for the rights, but it lost out to Fox (Star India). Since then, Facebook has been boosting its budget for more content, including live sports and original shows. Little by little, Facebook is hoping to expand its growing sports line–up. With over 1.4 billion active daily users, Facebook is continuing to grow and taking the steps necessary to stay in the lead. And while traditional television is slowly losing viewers and advertising revenue to the digital platforms, Facebook’s ad revenue last year totaled $40 billion.
Sports deals will continue to be of critical importance to TV broadcast networks, as those networks aren’t going away any time soon. Not only is television still proving to be highly-effective, many advertisers are wary of making the switch over to digital platforms due to issues such as fraud, bots, video viewability and measurement issues. That said, Facebook is attracting marketers that want to reach younger sports fans who are digitally savvy.