YouTube in first exclusive live games deal with MLB
YouTube, the Google-owned video streaming platform, today announced a significant deal with North America's Major League Baseball to live-stream 13 games worldwide in the remainder of the 2019 season.
It is YouTube's first exclusive live game distribution partnership with MLB, which will announce a schedule of dates and matchups in the next few weeks.
The 13 games will be exclusively distributed in USA, Canada and Puerto Rico live and for free on MLB’s official YouTube channel, and on a forthcoming dedicated channel on YouTube TV, the $49.99-per-month subscription streaming service.
Those games will not be available to watch on any North American TV network nor the MLB.tv subscription-streaming service.
The YouTube games will feature pre- and post-game shows, and will likely involve popular YouTube creators.
The league's in-house MLB Network, which was made available on YouTube TV for the first time a year ago, will produce the games.
MLB said YouTube's international agreement excludes 23 territories where rights deals are in place. These include Japan, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.
Timothy Katz, YouTube’s head of sports and news partnerships, said today: “It’s incredible to team up with Major League Baseball for this first-of-its-kind deal together to provide both diehard baseball fans and our YouTube community with live games exclusively on YouTube and YouTube TV. With Major League Baseball’s expanding international fanbase, we are confident YouTube’s global audience will bring fans around the world together in one place to watch the games and teams they love.”
Chris Tully, MLB’s executive vice-president of global media, added: “YouTube is an enormously popular video platform with impressive global reach and has served as a great environment for baseball fans to consume the game they love. With the media consumption habits of our fans continuing to evolve, MLB is committed both to expanding our roster of national broadcast platforms and to presenting live games in new ways to our fans.”
The carved-out package is similar to the one held by Facebook last year, after it struck its first digital-only national broadcast deal with MLB, exclusively streaming 25 afternoon games across the 2018 regular season.
Facebook recently renewed its streaming deal for the 2019 season, but with a significant reduction in the number of live regular-season games, to just six, which are being made available on Facebook Watch on a non-exclusive basis globally, excluding local markets subject to blackout and select international markets.
Explaining the cutback, Peter Hutton, Facebook’s director, global live sports partnerships and programming, told Sportcal earlier this month “The biggest part of that deal was getting clips and highlights rights secured… Doing one-off games with different fans coming every week is not ideal for building an audience.
“We’re happy to continue to work with MLB, but the bit that worked was clips and highlights… The audience watching on Facebook is demonstrably younger than the one on TV.”
YouTube is a longstanding content partner of MLB and its 30 teams, having offered highlights and classic games for over a decade.
In October 2017, YouTube TV signed up as the first-ever presenting sponsor of the World Series, and extended that deal in March 2018 to include the season-ending showpiece last year and in 2019.