Facebook to exclusively stream 25 MLB games; Cardinals matchup included

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Zack Duke delivers a pitch to the Chicago Cubs in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on September 14, 2016.Chicago defeated St. Louis 7-0. Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

Major League Baseball is taking a major swing on the future of streaming with Facebook.

The social network announced on Friday it has retained the exclusive rights to stream 25 MLB games this season. This means if you want to watch those games on mobile, desktop or TV, you’ll need to log into Facebook first.

The games will be available for free through Facebook’s Watch tab in News Feeds. Facebook Watch is the site’s video hub for original and live content.

The partnership will begin on April 4 with a match-up between the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets.

Facebook’s deal consists of weekday afternoon games, mostly on Wednesdays. International audiences can watch the games directly on MLB’s Facebook page.

“It is a major creative step forward in serving our diverse, passionate community of fans, who will enjoy a uniquely interactive experience watching our games on Facebook each week,” said Tony Petitti, the league’s deputy commissioner of business and media, in a statement.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

The MLB Network is handling the games’ production and will debut a new graphics package “designed for intuitively watching, sharing and interacting on Facebook.”

The deal is an expansion between a growing partnership between Facebook and the MLB. Last year, the league streamed one Friday game a week, but it wasn’t exclusive to Facebook.

It’s also a sign Facebook wants to bolster its fledgling Watch video tab and move further into signing exclusive deals for lucrative sports packages.

Although the games are not the playoffs or the World Series, analyst Lee Berke told CNN it shows Facebook is becoming a major media competitor.

“The deal is meant to establish skills and resources for Facebook to potentially bid on larger games with the MLB and other properties,” Berke said. “It doesn’t stop here.”

But Facebook isn’t the only tech company with eyes on streaming live sporting events. The NFL partnered with Twitter to stream 10 Thursday Night Football games in 2016. The next year, the NFL struck a similar $50 million streaming deal with Amazon.

Facebook previously bid $600 million for the global TV and digital rights to stream cricket games from India’s Premier League for five years. But it was beat out by Star India, owned by 21st Century Fox.

Following is the complete schedule for April (subject to change; all times are Eastern). Each additional monthly broadcast schedule will be announced during the season.

  • Wednesday, April 4: Philadelphia Phillies vs. New York Mets, 1:10 p.m.
  • Wednesday, April 11: Milwaukee Brewers vs. St. Louis Cardinals, 1:15 p.m.
  • Wednesday, April 18: Kansas City Royals vs. Toronto Blue Jays, 4:07 p.m.
  • Thursday, April 26: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Philadelphia Phillies, 1:05 p.m.