As part of its effort to grow its live streaming video platform, Facebook (FB, Financial) has landed a deal with Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Esports League (ESL, Financial) to stream games and tournaments.
Facebook announced on Thursday that it has signed a deal with ESL that gives the social network rights to livestream 5,500 hours of esports original content and events. Of those 5,500 hours, 1,500 will be exclusive content provided to Facebook directly.
The move is a smart one for Facebook, as the e-sports industry attracts a sizeable global audience, with half being in the 18-25-year-old demographic. Facebook's only real competitor would be Twitch, a video game streaming company purchased by Amazon (AMZN) in 2014.
According to a report released last year, more than 100 million users on Twitch had streamed 800 million hours of esports content.
Facebook's deal with ESL will launch next month with the streaming of the Rank S competitions. An exclusive, weekly CS:GO show will accompany the competition streaming, which will feature upcoming talent, the top players and highlights from the tournament.
The Intel Extreme Masters and the ESL One competitions will also stream on Facebook's network and in six languages: English, German, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish and French.
“With over 1.94 billion monthly active users on Facebook, this is a huge step toward expanding the reach of esports among mainstream audiences,” said Johannes Schiefer, ESL's Vice President of Social Media and Editorial. “Last year, ESL content generated over 2 billion impressions and reached over 200 million users on Facebook globally. Now, with the addition of live streaming for all major ESL events, as well as exclusive content around CS:GO and ESEA, we are excited to expand our reach to more audiences and build strong local communities of highly engaged esports fans.”
The esports industry is growing rapidly, generating $493 million in revenue in 2016. The industry is expected to grow by 41.3% in 2017, and reach $1.488 billion by 2020.
News of Facebook's deal with ESL comes on the same day the social network announced a separate deal with the MLB to stream one game a week for the rest of the season.
Facebook will stream the game on Friday, starting with this week's game between the Colorado Rockies and Cincinnati Reds. In total, 20 games will be streamed on the social media platform.
The MLB games will not be subject to local blackouts, unlike the games streamed on Twitter.
Baseball fans can watch the live stream via MLB's official Facebook page.
Disclosure: Author has no interest in any of the listed equities.