Facebook to offer live-streamed MLB games, starting Friday night

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Keith Allison/Flickr

Just a couple of months ago rumors swirled that Facebook was in talks with Major League Baseball (MLB) with a view toward streaming a bunch of games during this season.

Well, the social networking giant got what it wanted, inking a deal to stream 20 games on a weekly basis, starting tonight.

The deal marks Facebook’s determination to further expand its live-stream offerings in competition with the likes of Twitter and Amazon, both of whom have been chasing similar sports-focused partnerships.

U.S. based sports fans can enjoy Facebook’s baseball coverage by hitting its MLB page. First game? The Colorado Rockies at the Cincinnati Reds, starting at 7:10 p.m. ET. Incidentally, Twitter’s MLB offerings, which since the start of this season have been showing each Friday, will soon switch to Tuesdays.

Facebook’s Dan Reed, who heads the company’s global sports unit, said in a statement that the nation’s baseball clashes are “uniquely engaging community experiences, as the chatter and rituals in the stands are often as meaningful to fans as the action on the diamond,” adding, “By distributing a live game per week on Facebook, Major League Baseball can reimagine this social experience on a national scale.”

Efforts by Facebook and others to increase their live programming are part of a drive to boost user engagement and, ultimately, ad revenue. Twitter scored a touchdown last season with a deal to show a number of Thursday Night Football games, a partnership that’s thought to  have cost the social media company around $10 million. But, in a recent move highlighting just how competitive the space is becoming, Amazon batted Twitter out of the ground and snagged the same coverage for next season in a new deal worth $50 million.

The sports themselves are hoping the deals lead to bigger audiences, as the social media sites weave viewing and fan analysis into one experience that has the potential to drive engagement.

While the social media services are still up against the likes of broadcasting giants NBC and CBS, which continue to pull in much larger audiences with their live TV coverage, these recent deals show how the landscape is changing when it comes to audience viewing habits.