Mets fans can see Wednesday’s Phillies-Mets game by going to Citi Field, can listen to it on the radio or, best of all, can read Newsday’s coverage of it.
But they cannot watch it live on television.
In the premiere of what Major League Baseball views as an experiment in modern content distribution, the game will be shown live on Facebook, the first of 25 this season to be national exclusives for the social media giant.
“Obviously, there are millions of people that are engaging on all different kinds of platforms,” Tony Petitti, deputy commissioner of business and media for MLB, said on Tuesday. “We’re just trying to figure out ways to bring our content to as many platforms where fans aggregate as possible.”
That will be done through a package of weekday afternoon games, the theory being that is the best time to reach people through digital options, when many are away from their home TVs.
Accessing games is free but will require a Facebook account and use of Facebook Watch’s MLB Live page. For many, it will be a seamless process; for others, confusion and consternation are inevitable.
By Tuesday, many fans were voicing concerns, from social media to sports talk radio.
“Obviously it might be a little bit tricky, and we want to be respectful of our fans,” Petitti said, adding that the first obligation of MLB, Facebook, the Mets and the Phillies is helping fans navigate how to access the game.
“There’s always going to be, when you test new things, a little bit of disruption. There’s no doubt about that. We understand that and we’re obviously sensitive to it, which is the reason why we’re not going to hit the same teams over and over again with games.”
Petitti said baseball’s large inventory of games provides the flexibility for experiments such as the Facebook deal, as well as the ability to spread the schedule around.
So far only nine of the 25 games have been announced, three of which involve the Phillies. As of now, there are no other Mets games scheduled and no Yankees games.
The teams’ local TV outlets have the option of showing the Facebook games that night. As of early Tuesday, SNY had not announced whether it will do so.
The Facebook games will be produced by MLB Network, with Scott Braun, Cliff Floyd and John Kruk set to work Wednesday, with Alexa Datt as in-game reporter.
Beyond that, the idea is to use Facebook’s social networking functions to allow interaction between the announcers and viewers. The production also will be tailored to watching on mobile devices, with tighter camera angles and larger graphics.
Bloomberg reported when the deal was announced last month that Facebook would pay $30 million to $35 million for the privilege. But the money is not as central to the project as the experiment, which goes both ways.
Digital media companies have their own exploring to do. Yahoo!, Twitter and Amazon have carried NFL games.
“They are looking to bring content to their audiences,” Petitti said. “Not just user-generated content, but content, whether it’s scripted or live events or sports, is all being tested to see what the engagement is.”
Petitti added, “Of course the backbone of what we do is the cable TV model and the national partners, but also the volume of games allows us to do some meaningful testing.”
The idea is not, as some have surmised, to target younger fans. Facebook’s size cuts across demographics.
“As distribution of content continues to evolve and change very rapidly across lots of different platforms, lots of leagues are experimenting with different content,” Petitti said.
“I think for us doing it this way makes the most sense in terms of how we do the test. But that’s what this is about, trying to figure out the viability of these platforms as a delivery system for live baseball games.”
How to Get to the Game
Wednesday’s Phillies-Mets game will be available exclusively on Facebook Watch. Here’s a step-by-step guide to using Facebook Watch:
1. Launch your web browser and navigate to www.facebook.com.
2. Log-in to Facebook.
3. Once logged in, search for “MLB Live.”
4. Follow the “MLB Live” show page to receive updates.
1. Download and/or launch the Facebook app on your phone or tablet device.
2. Search for “MLB Live.”
3. Follow the “MLB Live” show page to receive updates.
1. Download the Facebook video app on your TV or streaming device and search for “MLB Live.”
2. (Alternatively) Stream a game from your phone to a TV on the same wifi network by tapping the (TV) icon.