Google’s YouTube has reached an agreement with Major League Baseball for exclusive rights to broadcast games in the second half of the season, continuing the expansion of live sports on the Internet.
All 13 games will be distributed on YouTube worldwide and exclusively in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, the parties announced Tuesday. The actual matchups, which have not yet been chosen, will be broadcast live on the official MLB YouTube channel and via a new channel on YouTube TV. Coverage will include pre- and post-game shows, and will include YouTube creators. Financial terms were not given.
“As Major League Baseball expands its international fanbase, we’re confident that YouTube’s global audience will bring fans around the world together in one place to watch the games and teams they love,” Timothy Katz, head of sports and news partnerships for video sites, said in a statement.
The tie-up is similar to what MLB did last season with Facebook, which marked the first time a major U.S. league agreed to broadcast regular-season games exclusively on the social network. Tech companies are increasingly vying for live sports rights, increasing the value of deals for leagues. Amazon.com Inc., for example, airs Thursday Night Football. Many in the industry expect tech and social media companies to bid for trademark rights in the future.
YouTube has made live sports a centerpiece of its live service, YouTube TV, which in 2017 became the title sponsor of the World Series.
Live sports provide YouTube with premium programming that it can use to attract advertisers and boost its image as an outlet for marketers. Part of Google’s parent Alphabet Inc., the company has come under fire for allowing user-generated videos that spread conspiracy theories or use hate speech, scandals that prompted some advertisers to suspend purchases .
Baseball games add to the growing lineup of sports on YouTube. The NBA, for example, uses YouTube to stream games live in Africa, while several Major League Soccer teams, including the Los Angeles Football Club and the Seattle Sounders, broadcast their games locally. Along with Amazon’s Twitch, YouTube is also one of the largest live streamers of competitive video games.
The company will showcase its lineup, including sports and original series, at an event in New York this week.
“YouTube is a hugely popular video platform with impressive global reach,” said Chris Tully, MLB’s executive vice president of global media. “As our fans’ media consumption habits continue to evolve, MLB is committed to both expanding our roster or national broadcast platforms and bringing live games to our fans in new ways.”
Games on YouTube will be produced by the MLB Network, which means they will have a broadcast appearance. MLB, which has been broadcasting live games since 2002, launched its YouTube channel in 2005, according to the parties. MLB generated 1.25 billion channel views in 2018, up 25% from the previous year.
Facebook, meanwhile, will broadcast six live, non-exclusive regular season games globally this year on Facebook Watch, excluding local markets. The social network showed 25 games last season.