In a relatively historic move, Major League Baseball has granted the social media platform “The Facebook” exclusive streaming rights to 25 Major League games during the 2018 season.
If you’re confused by what’s particularly “historic” about this report (because you recall Facebook streaming some MLB games last season), note that these games will be *exclusive* to Facebook, and, thus, not watchable on any other platform/TV network, like last year.
All 25 games will be mid-week afternoon games (in fact, most will be specifically on Wednesdays), and will start with the April 4th contest between the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies. According to Bloomberg, the broadcasts will be produced by MLB Network, so it should still look and feel like a familiar product, but there could be some very notable differences – for example, general experimentation with live social interaction and new overlaid graphics (I’m currently thinking of how Snapchat filters could be comically utilized in this respect).
“Much like the migration of sports from broadcast to cable, you’re reaching these milestones where the combination of the financial incentive and the audience allow you to make the next great leap,” said Lee Berke, an industry consultant, to Bloomberg. “This is part of the next great leap.”
Outside of the obvious impact to your fan experience (there’s a good chance the Cubs will be participating in some of these games (especially considering how many day games they have at Wrigley compared to other teams)), there’s also the Cubs’ broader TV-rights sale currently brewing in the background of everything else. If you recall, the Cubs TV rights become a “free agent” in 2019, which means we’re quickly approaching the point where something could get done at any moment.
With Facebook stepping up their slate of sports streaming, they’re effectively signaling their intention, willingness, and ability to carry more live sports to the market. For an organization like the Cubs, who are looking to create their own network, the viability of a streaming service like Facebook could help increase the price for their rights (without places like Facebook in the picture, the other bidders in the Chicago regional sports market might not have many other competitive bidders). So all things considered, I’d say this is not only pretty cool, but also potentially good news for the Cubs.
If you’re interested in this topic, remember that Brett wrote a pretty comprehensive piece over the offseason and followed it up with some news from Crane Kenney, the Cubs President on the business side, soon thereafter. Given how much money the Cubs stand to bring in from this sale, and how expensive the team figures to be in just a few years, this is one of the most important stories to track for the Chicago Cubs.
So naturally, a service like Facebook grabbing exclusive rights to 25 MLB games is quite the peripheral development.