As our Facebook feeds become saturated with video, the company is expanding its reach with more live sports. According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, Facebook has signed a deal with Major League Soccer and Univision that will allow it to live stream at least 22 regular-season games during the 2017 season. Facebook gains exclusive, English-language rights to these games that are typically only shown on Univision in Spanish. The first live-streamed game will feature Atlanta United hosting the Chicago Fire on March 18.
MLS will also produce 40 “Matchday Live” shows, featuring commentary and analysis of the games to be played that day, that will be broadcast on the official MLS Facebook page. These shows are exclusive to Facebook, and the live-stream broadcasts of the soccer matches will have Facebook-specific commentators, graphics, and social-media engagement through Q&A and polling features. The partnership appears to be twofold: Facebook gets exclusive rights to popular soccer matches while MLS and Univision get to use the social media platform to interact with younger fans in new ways.
This won’t be the first time Facebook live-streamed a soccer match: last August, it streamed the National Women’s Soccer League opener. This deal is another step up for Facebook, which is only one of the companies clamoring for live sports streaming deals. Amazon has reportedly been in talks with organizations including Major League Baseball, the NBA, and the NFL to live-stream games and events. Last year, Twitter landed a big deal with the NFL and live-streamed 10 of its Thursday night football games.
Live sports are hot, as they are one of the few things traditional cable companies can offer customers that most new TV or streaming companies can’t, due to licensing agreements. Facebook may not be directly competing with the PlayStation Vues or YouTube TVs of the world, but it’s competing against companies like Twitter and Snapchat for the eyeballs and engagement that come along with live games.