Facebook signs deal with MLS, Univision Deportes to livestream soccer matches

Facebook Live 360
Facebook has been steadily expanding video content on its platform, including new live 360 videos. (Facebook)

Facebook signed a new deal with Major League Soccer and Univision Deportes to livestream a “full slate” of regular season matches on the social network.

The companies said at least 22 matches during the 2017 MLS regular season that are being broadcast on Univision networks in Spanish will now be available in the U.S. for livestreaming in English on the Univision Deportes Facebook page.

The livestreamed matches are being produced for mobile devices specifically and will feature Facebook-specific commentators, interactive graphics, and fan Q&A and polling features. The first MLS match to be streamed will be Atlanta United versus Chicago Fire on Saturday, March 18.

As part of this, MLS is planning to expand social engagement with fans and produce more unique digital content.

In addition to the matches, MLS will produce 40 exclusive “Matchday Live” shows, consisting of highlights and analysis, for Facebook.

“Major League Soccer’s innovative approach to the fan experience has cultivated truly special in-stadium environments, where flag-waving and chant-singing fans come together to passionately support their clubs,” said Dan Reed, Facebook Head of Global Sports Partnerships. “We’re very excited for MLS and Univision Deportes to bring this same innovative, community-first spirit to the Facebook Live broadcasts of league matches this season. Their approach will provide fans with an entirely new way to experience a live soccer broadcast that is optimized for mobile screens and social viewing. So even if they're not at the stadium, people can watch the game on Facebook with a great view of the action while interacting with a highly-engaged community of fans."

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The new livestreaming deal comes after MLS and Facebook worked together on projects during the 2016 season including MLS Commissioner Don Garber hosting a Facebook Live Q&A and creating content around MLS events including the MLS All-Star Game, Decision Day, and MLS Cup.

The new deal with MLS and Univision expands Facebook’s growing slate of live sports amid the social network’s more aggressive approach to securing original video content rights for its platform, including a possible deal with Major League Baseball.

According to Reuters, Facebook and MLB are in talks to livestream one MLB game per week. The deal for Facebook would give the social media platform a win in its current battle with Twitter for livestreaming sports rights. Twitter is coming off a livestreaming deal with the NFL and has recently added other deals with the PGA.