Marking its biggest foray yet into live sports, YouTube said it has secured a deal with Major League Baseball to exclusively stream 13 games in the second half of the 2019 regular season.
Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. The games have not been announced, but YouTube will be the exclusive national broadcaster of these contests in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. That means the games won’t be on Fox, Turner or any of MLB’s national TV partners’ networks. They won’t stream on MLB.tv, either. YouTube also has non-exclusive rights all over the world, save for select territories like Germany and Japan, where existing broadcast rights deals overlap.
MLB Network will produce YouTube’s game coverage, complete with pre- and post-game coverage.
The games will stream live on MLB’s YouTube channel, as well as a forthcoming channel on virtual MVPD platform YouTube TV.
Google-owned YouTube already has content partnerships with most, if not all, of MLB’s 30 teams, which post highlights and classic games on their respective channels. And YouTube TV became the first-ever presenting sponsor of the World Series in 2017.
MLB has operated its own YouTube channel since 2005, generating 1.25 billion channel views in 2918 alone.
“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,” said Chris Tully, MLB executive vice president of global media, in a statement.
The agreement seems somewhat similar in scope to one carved out earlier by Facebook, which signed on to live stream 25 games in the 2018 season.
It represents a push by YouTube to establish its flagship, ad-supported, free-to-consumer YouTube platform, as well as YouTube TV, as a destination for live sports.
As major sports league contracts come up for renewal, look for YouTube to become an even more aggressive bidder.
“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,” added Timothy Katz, head of sports and news partnerships for YouTube.