Major League Baseball (MLB) is experimenting with high-profile video content on Facebook. Baseball fans can now watch a spring training game live on MLB's Facebook Page for free (Facebook Credits are not required). One game will be broadcast live on the social network each day through the end of spring training in April, and perhaps into the regular season.
MLB is trying to use the free games to drive new subscribers to MLB.TV, which lets users watch all out-of-market regular season games and select spring training games online or on a mobile device for between $20 and $25 a month (MLB.TV's digital video package will set you back $120). The games are free, but you can't expand the video beyond the small box in the Facebook News Feed.
Bob Bowman, CEO of MLB.com, says there aren't plans to give MLB.TV subscribers full access to games via Facebook, and doesn't plan on selling individual games on the website, either. "What we're trying to do is figure out who these fans are, whether they like it, and whether they share it," he told All Things Digital.
It's worth noting that Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is trying a similar marketing scheme. On its Facebook Page, UFC is showing some preliminary matches for free and trying to convince viewers to buy the pay-per-view option outside of Facebook.
Facebook has the potential to become a content distribution platform. Last week, Warner Bros. outlined a plan to offer movies for both rental and purchase directly on Facebook, and started a trial with The Dark Knight. Days later, Sony piped up and said that it would also consider movie distribution on the social network.
A live sports game has a bigger potential on Facebook than a movie that has already been out for months does, simply because users are more likely to share a live event with a real-time status update. It also helps that the games are free, while the movies are not. Then again, if movie studios offered movies on Facebook before they were out on DVD… well, one can dream.