Today marks the live streaming debut of Major League Soccer.
But, better late than never.
Live streaming deals between sports properties and social media platforms have been rife this past year, with everyone from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube (and even Amazon) all clamouring for a piece.
The notable sports property exception had been Major League Soccer, but now in a three way deal brokered between Facebook, Univision and MLS, a full slate of regular season matches – 22 of them – are to be streamed on the Facebook Live platform over the course of the next 9 months.
This is not a completely new partnership.
MLS and Facebook have collaborated before, hosting their annual State of the League address on the platform last year, as well as unique content around signature events including the MLS All-Star Game, Decision Day, and MLS Cup.
But now it’s here, what is going to make it different?
Commissioner Don Garber spoke in depth about the deal at SXSW.
And the general theme he spoke about was that this was an experiment in content.
It is an experiment in delivering a different type of content to fans, and seeing if the delivery of that content is as good as it is via traditional broadcasts and/ or if that content offers different and better engagement for fans.
In this new era of content consumption it is no longer simply about having the broadcast rights, and as Brandon Costa, of Sports Video Group mentioned, the productions of this deal — and the work behind them — promise to be noteworthy in that they will be produced specifically for Facebook Live.
This will be good for fans.
Original content is an important point of differentiation when competing for eyeballs. And this looks to be where MLS is differentiating itself, because this is not just another deal – MLS is the first league to have an extended package on Facebook, after agreeing to produce more digital content around the game. The thinking behind this is to provide fans with an entirely new experience of watching the game on Facebook.
The broadcasts themselves will feature Facebook-specific commentators and ways for viewers to engage with those commentators during the matches, along with interactive graphics, fan Q&As, and live polls.
And supporting this will be the programming of 40 exclusive Matchday Live shows on game days that will appear exclusively on the MLS Facebook page.
So, what do you think?
The first match is live streaming today, March 18, at 4 p.m. ET, and will feature the Chicago Fire traveling to expansion side Atlanta United.
The game will appear on Univision Deportes’ Facebook page.
Let us know what you think below.