Facebook Inc. is stepping up efforts to acquire rights to stream professional sporting events, as that content becomes a key element of its strategy to grow its video business.
The latest move: the social media giant FB, +0.38% signed a deal with Major League Soccer and Spanish-language broadcaster Univision Communications Inc. that gives it exclusive, English-language rights to stream at least 22 regular-season soccer games in the U.S. The first game will stream on March 18.
MLS will also produce more than 40 “Matchday Live” analysis shows for Facebook that will be exclusive to the social media giant globally. The games will appear on Univision Deportes’ Facebook page, while the live shows will stream on MLS’ Facebook page.
Facebook executives are eager to bring more sports content to the platform given its popularity among its 1.86 billion monthly users. About 35% of Facebook’s monthly user base—or 650 million people — is connected to at least one sports page on the social network. Facebook said soccer is the most-followed sport among its users.
The company is also in talks with Major League Baseball for live streaming rights, according to people familiar with the matter, and it recently signed deals with World Surf League and NBA’s minor league organization. Reuters earlier reported on Facebook’s talks with MLB.