It was about a month ago when Facebook and Major League Baseball announced an agreement for the social media giant to broadcast 25 afternoon games throughout the season. Their first came Wednesday when they broadcast the Mets and Phillies game from CitiField in New York.
First, the broadcast had the misfortune of a rain delay of just about an hour-and-a-half. Part of the problem is that Facebook might not have anticipated that happening, so if you “clicked in” right at or just after the scheduled start of the screen, you had just a graphic telling you to that the broadcast would begin shortly. It left those trying to watch wondering what was going on and they voiced that with their comments that were noticeable on the screen.
Those very comments were a part of the broadcast that many fans didn’t enjoy. Eventually, Facebook put a graphic on the screen telling viewers how to get rid of the comments if they preferred not to see them during the game.
Another complaint was that Facebook didn’t use the usual basic graphics that fit neatly into the screen. Instead, you were left with a giant left-hand scoreboard graphic and a large banner across the top which showed various information ranging from player stats to comments from fans watching the game. Ben Harris of The Athletic actually did the math and figured out just how much space the two graphics were taking away from viewing the game.
Sadly, I did the math. Over 30% of the screen is not the actual baseball game. Talk about a poor viewing experience. pic.twitter.com/7bRhyP1YyK
— Ben Harris (@byBenHarris) April 4, 2018
As with the notice of how to get rid of the comments section, Facebook also pivoted during the broadcast and at times, eliminated the top banner to show the game in a larger area. Also to the credit of MLB and Facebook, it sounds like the two partners will work to fine-tune the broadcasts, so it will be interesting to see just what they do down the road.
“Today marked a historic and important step as we experiment with new platforms for fans to watch games. Our fans provided great feedback throughout their experiences today, which will continue to help us as we present these social-first broadcasts on Facebook each week,” said MLB in a statement released following the game.
The broadcast crew received mixed reviews. Play-by-play man Scott Braun was the most criticized of the three, with commentators Cliff Floyd and John Kruk generally receiving good reviews. Floyd was the most liked of the three and came across as insightful and passionate about the game.
An interesting twist was that there were no commercials. Between innings and during pitching changes, the broadcast stayed at the ballpark with various discussions and features. One of the video features between innings featured Kruk’s 1993 All-Star Game at-bat against Randy Johnson featuring interviews with both Johnson and Kruk. The video launched an on-going discussion about that “historic” moment. At another point, comedian and Mets fan Jim Breuer was interviewed about his thoughts on the 2018 Mets.
The games will be produced by MLB Network, which made the graphics issues a little surprising.
It’s believed that Facebook paid in the neighborhood of $30 to $35-million for the rights to the weekday afternoon games. The next broadcast will feature the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers. The Phillies home game against the Arizona Diamondbacks on April 26th is part of the Facebook broadcast schedule.