MLB teams embrace Facebook live streaming during spring training

Major League Baseball is going to bat on Facebook live streaming.

With spring training in full swing, several pro baseball teams, including the San Francisco Giants, Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Dodgers, are experimenting with daily live broadcasts on Facebook. Typically, these teams are giving fans a behind-the-scenes peek at players at batting practice or going through field drills.

“What we’re trying to do is give our fans that authentic look behind the curtain and get as close as they can to the players,” said Bryan Srabian, vp of brand development and digital media for the San Francisco Giants.

The San Francisco Giants, closing in on 3 million Facebook fans, are going live once or twice a day on the platform. The effort is manned by the organization’s two-person social media team, which includes Srabian — though it’s looking to add a staffer for the coming season.

The Detroit Tigers have a similarly nimble social operation, with Facebook live streaming as well as other social content handled by its digital and social media specialist Mac Slavin. The team, which has more than 2.3 million Facebook fans, is usually going live once a day.

A Facebook live broadcast is a relatively inexpensive production, often requiring only a person with an iPhone. It’s one of the key reasons why media companies are eager to experiment with the tool.“Facebook live is more about a raw and authentic feel versus a polished broadcast,” said Srabian. “Maybe the other way is an option down the road [on Facebook], but right now its ease of use for us and for fans to watch in real time is appealing.”

For instance, the Giants aren’t new to live streaming — just a few weeks ago the organization live streamed a “town hall” event in which players met and answered questions from season ticket holders. This stream was available on the team’s website and was handled by its video team, which staffs nearly 15 people.

Facebook Live is swiftly gaining adoption among media companies and personalities. News outlets ranging from Fusion to TMZ have incorporated the tool into their daily social content strategies. Facebook also wants famous people to use the tool more often and is reportedly willing to pay them cash to do it.

The growth comes at the expense of live streaming platforms like Periscope, which can’t come close to offering the reach that Facebook does. The Giants’ Facebook live videos are achieving roughly five times the reach of live videos the team has previously done on Periscope and other platforms, according to Srabian. The Tigers’ live streams rack up a couple of thousand live viewers within the first 15 to 20 seconds of going live, added Slavin. The team’s live videos also generate double the amount of shares of the team’s regular Facebook videos. (Users are notified when a Facebook page they follow has started a live broadcast.)

“We try to get that kind of engagement with all pieces of content,” said Slavin. “But Facebook Live is great at [organically] boosting that type of engagement.”

There is no formal arrangement between Facebook and MLB or any of the league’s teams when it comes to live video. Facebook does have an existing relationship with each of the teams and routinely provides support for teams and players to use platform tools.

And the teams are optimistic about using Facebook live streaming. Instead of stopping with batting practices and field drills, the team will try to spotlight players, team staff and special events spread out across the season. Facebook live streaming will remain a daily exercise, according to Srabian.

“I’ve got a list of ideas about what I want to do,” he said. “Maybe it’s going with a player to a local coffeeshop or to get a haircut and having him answer fans’ questions, or having him give a tour of his house — things that are typically social in nature, but fans don’t get to see it as much.”

Image via Eric Broder Van Dyke / Shutterstock.com