Facebook had a package of 20 non-exclusive Friday night games previous year that began in mid-May and used broadcast feeds from the participating teams.
The games will air on weekday afternoons, and MLB Network will produce the broadcasts to ensure TV-level quality.
It's the first time a major USA league has agreed to show regular season games exclusively on Facebook, which has been building a portfolio of live sports. Financial terms were not released. Though the afternoon games aren't prime time viewing, it's a potentially significant win for Facebook, which has been building up a catalog of live sports inventory as the demand for digital sports media content continues to grow. The first game will be played on April 4th, just days into the regular season, between the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Mets at Citi Field in New York.
Hours after the Facebook deal was announced, Twitter announced its own plans for a three-year with Major League Soccer to stream two dozen live matches as well as highlights. Viewers will be able to watch on smartphones, tablets, computers and other connected devices, including home TVs.
"The deal is meant to establish skills and resources for Facebook to potentially bid on larger games with the Major League Baseball and other properties", Berke said. That said, Facebook will be experimenting with social integration and special graphics (which makes sense for a social media platform). Late a year ago, sources toldSports Business Journal that Facebook planned to spend "a few billion dollars" on sports streaming deals.
Major League Baseball will also produce and distribute curated content in addition to each live game on Facebook. These will be available on Facebook Watch in the United States and to baseball fans around the world.
Verizon signed a deal with the NBA to stream eight basketball games on Yahoo, and Amazon paid $50 million to stream National Football League games to Prime members last season.
The games will be available to Facebook users in the USA on Facebook Watch, the company's video feature announced last August, via the MLB Live show page. Facebook Watch is the site's video hub for original and live content.