It is the first live game distribution partnership for the two entities and a notable pact in the percolating and capital-intensive area of sports rights. Amazon, Facebook and YouTube have all entered live sports streaming in significant ways in recent years, with speculation growing that they will end up owning a much larger slice of the sports pie over the next few years.
Dates and matchups for the games will be announced in the coming weeks, MLB and YouTube said. Each game will be produced and enhanced exclusively for the YouTube platform by MLB Network’s production team. In order to see games for free, viewers will need only to subscribe to MLB’s official YouTube channel.
“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,” said Timothy Katz, Head of Sports and News Partnerships, YouTube. “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.”
YouTube has had a relationship with baseball for more than a decade, with the YouTube TV bundled service becoming the first-ever presenting sponsor of the World Series from 2017 to 2019. MLB is an early pioneer in video streaming, launching its first live streams in 2002 and starting its YouTube channel in 2005. The league has built a sizable audience on the platform, generating 1.25 billion channel views in 2018, up nearly 25% from 2017.
“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,” said Chris Tully, MLB Executive Vice President, Global Media. “We are excited to expand our partnership with YouTube to provide fans with an exclusive, customized live game viewing experience. 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.”