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MLB will air 25 games this year exclusively on Facebook, but the Cubs probably won’t be involved

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This is an experiment. It could be a sign for the future.

Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — In what could be a sign of how baseball games will be distributed in the future, Major League Baseball announced that 25 Wednesday afternoon games this season would be carried live exclusively on Facebook:

On Friday morning, Major League Baseball announced that they would be airing 25 games exclusively on Facebook Watch this season. The package of games is made up of mid-week afternoon games, and will be produced by MLB Network.

The games will be available to watch through Facebook’s MLB Live page, and the package is reportedly costing Facebook between $30 and $35 million.

These are being considered “exclusives” in the same sense that you’d see a weekly Saturday game on your local Fox channel, or Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN. No local network or channel for the teams involved will carry these games.

The first four games have been announced (all times Central):

Wednesday, April 4: Philadelphia Phillies vs. New York Mets, 12:10 p.m.
Wednesday, April 11: Milwaukee Brewers vs. St. Louis Cardinals, 12:15 p.m.
Wednesday, April 18: Kansas City Royals vs. Toronto Blue Jays, 3:07 p.m.
Thursday, April 26: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Philadelphia Phillies, 12:05 p.m.

This isn’t a first for MLB and Facebook. The league and the website partnered for 20 non-exclusive Friday night games in 2017, and the Cubs carried a couple of games last year live (also not exclusively, though) on the team’s Facebook page.

Neither the MLB press release nor several articles I’ve read about this indicate whether these games will be limited to Wednesdays and Thursdays (as the first four are), or whether any weekday afternoon game could be chosen.

The Cubs have 31 games this year scheduled for weekday afternoons — 28 at home, three on the road. The reason it’s unlikely any of these games will be chosen for the Facebook package is explained here:

Facebook’s selection will come from among the nine games per season teams can lose from their local telecasts to national video partners, which include Fox and ESPN.

The Cubs already have eight games on their schedule that will air exclusively on Fox and ESPN, four on each of those networks. Two others (August 12 vs. the Nationals and September 29 vs. the Cardinals) could still be chosen for national broadcast, and I strongly suspect one of those two will wind up on either ESPN or Fox, filling the Cubs’ national quota for 2018.

While the Cubs likely won’t be part of the new MLB/Facebook package, I would not be surprised to see the Cubs try another handful of games to be simulcast on the team’s Facebook page. Last year’s experiment was considered a success, and as teams and MLB experiment with new ways of distributing their product, online streaming could indeed become a factor.

Now if they could just do something about those pesky blackouts...