Facebook Signs Deals With ESL and MLB in Ongoing Streaming Video Push

After its first sports-related streams went live early last year,
focusing on soccer and hockey, Facebook this week has made
inroads into two new categories that will bring fans of eSports
and baseball both live and on-demand content (via
The Wall Street Journal

Facebook already had deals with five eSports teams who
published live and on-demand videos to the platform, but this
week the company made a bigger deal with ESL, originally known as the
Electronic Sports League, an organizer of eSports competitions.
For those unfamiliar, eSports coverage follows players
throughout a variety of competitive-focused video games, most
popularly including titles like StarCraft II,
Counter-Strike, League of Legends, and
Overwatch, among others.

In a
blog post announcing the deal
, ESL confirmed that fans will
be able to watch all IEM and ESL One events in up to six
different languages, and a few national championship and online
leagues, on ESL Facebook pages. The partnership is also
bringing an exclusive new weekly show to Facebook that will
allow viewers to comment and interact with the video stream
while “highlighting up and coming players.”

In total there will be 30 hours of weekly
streams, a weekly half hour show hosted by Mark
“Boq” Wilson, and more coming down the line. The broadcasts
will start in June with the Counter-Strike-focused
Rank S matches, and eventually grow to include videos of player
interviews, competition commentary, and more all streamed on

Currently, the most popular destinations for ESL-backed matches
are Twitch and
Notably, the deal with Facebook is said to not interfere with
ESL posting and streaming on other platforms simultaneously.
Still, Facebook is said to be looking to build an “ecosystem”
of game streams that convince gamers to tune into the social
network over its live streaming rivals.

Facebook Inc. is paying professional videogame teams and others
in the esports industry to post videos on the social network,
part of a shift in strategy to deliver more-premium programming
to the company’s nearly two billion monthly users.

Under the deals signed with Facebook, esports partners must
produce a minimum number of hours of video for the social
network, and in most cases the partners are allowed to
simultaneously publish to rival platforms such as Amazon.com
Inc.’s Twitch. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

In addition, Facebook and Major League Baseball have
announced a deal of their own that will bring 20 live-streamed
Friday night MLB games to Facebook during the 2017 season,
located on MLB’s Facebook page. The games will be free for any
United States-based Facebook user, and the first game will
broadcast tonight, May 19, with the Colorado Rockies and
Cincinnati Reds facing off.

Facebook has long been pushing into video content, from setting
the groundwork by testing
autoplay videos with sound
in its mobile app, to most
recently gearing up to
debut original TV shows
directly within the social network.
Over time, Facebook’s move to more “premium” video content is
said to gradually gain precedence over live and recorded video
from users.

People scrolling through Facebook’s news feed are more likely
to watch polished videos with audio turned on, making them
potentially lucrative vehicles for ads, analysts say. Such
content increasingly will appear in news feeds over
off-the-cuff live videos from users, as Facebook wants to be
seen as a hub for long-form video.

Streaming and on-demand video is becoming an area of
interest for other social networks besides Facebook, with
Snapchat recently being rumored to launch a collection
of 3-5 minute TV shows
within its mobile app. Twitter has
been the home of sports, news, and entertainment video streams
for a while now, and most recently revealed plans to launch a
full, always-on
network of news shows
in partnership with Bloomberg.

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