Facebook is reportedly in talks with Major League Baseball (MLB) to license live games from the upcoming season for its recently announced video app. A successful deal would provide a high-profile boost for the offering, which will see the social platform make the move to Samsung Smart TVs, and set-top boxes such as Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV.
Facebook and MLB are in the advanced stages of talks that could result in the social network landing the rights to broadcast one live game per week, according to sources who spoke to Reuters.
The move mirrors rival Twitter’s live video strategy through its emphasis on sports broadcasts. Sports events made up 52 percent of the 600 hours of video content streamed on Twitter between September and December, and included major partners like the NFL and NBA.
The big draw for sports leagues and media broadcasters is the size of Facebook’s user base, which is predicted to reach 2 billion members this year (231 million of whom are based in the United States and Canada). Seeing as the live-streams will be accessible across the range of devices Facebook is available on (desktop, mobile, and soon TV), the deal would ensure maximum exposure to that massive potential audience.
Another likely draw is advertising. Facebook currently offers comprehensive ad-targeting capabilities and has already started making ads for set-top boxes. Despite the company claiming in its recent earnings call that its video strategy would be funded through ad-sharing revenue, it also emphasized it hasn’t given up on content licensing deals. In the past, Facebook has paid out roughly $50 million to celebs and publishers to get them to create content for its Live Video feature.
Both Twitter and Facebook are also trying to appeal to global audiences with exclusive region-locked content. Twitter for example has live-streamed Six Nations Rugby in France, and Facebook broadcasted an NBA game in India. In order to compete with its bigger rival, Twitter (home to 319 million users) also allows logged-out users to tune into its live-streams.
Facebook’s most recent win came in the form of its deal with Univision to broadcast 46 Mexican Liga MX soccer games in the U.S. The first of those matches was live-streamed on the social network on Saturday. In his announcement, Facebook’s head of global sports partnerships Dan Reed revealed that the company had targeted sports content as a growth area.
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