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Facebook is getting exclusive rights to 25 Major League Baseball games

It’s the first time Facebook has had exclusive distribution rights to games from a major sports league.

Houston Astros baseball players celebrate on the field after winning the World Series. Ezra Shaw / Getty

Facebook will stream 25 Major League Baseball games this season, and you won’t be able to watch them anywhere else online or on TV.

It’s the first time that Facebook has secured exclusive rights to a major U.S. sporting event, and the first time that Major League Baseball has had “digital-only national broadcasts.” Bloomberg first reported the news.

It’s interesting news, not necessarily because the games are going to draw massive audiences (they likely won’t), but because it’s a sign that major sports leagues are getting more comfortable with their games appearing online — and only online — versus with traditional TV partners.

It’s also worth noting this is one of the few instances of a digital player taking valuable content away from traditional TV — in this case, games from a major U.S. sports league. Facebook and others have in the past gotten rights to second- or third-tier sports content, or streaming rights to games that were already going to be available on major TV stations. Now, with full media rights, Facebook is showing it can win rights to sought-after programming.

A few other logistics:

  • The games will appear inside Facebook’s Watch video section, where the company is trying to provide more repeat programming, like shows or weekly MLB games.
  • Facebook declined to share deal terms for the arrangement, but it is paying MLB for the games. It also streamed 20 games last season, though those weren’t exclusive.
  • Facebook will not run commercials or ads during the game, which means it won’t make money off them to start. Facebook has been vocal that it wants the videos inside Watch to include mid-roll ads (commercials), so it’s possible that could change at some point during the season.
  • The games Facebook is getting are all afternoon games, beginning with the Philadelphia Phillies at the New York Mets on April 4. They’ll be shown exclusively in the U.S.

Professional sports are slowly moving into the digital realm, though it’s still rare for live games to appear exclusively online. The NFL, for example, has streamed some “Thursday Night Football” games online with companies like Amazon and Twitter over the past two years. It’s currently looking for a streaming partner for a similar slate of games for this upcoming season. Facebook, which has shown interest in bidding for that package in years past, is not bidding this year.

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