Apple and Major League Baseball announced “Friday Night Baseball,” a weekly doubleheader with live pre- and postgame shows on Apple TV+. This is the first live sports available on the streaming service. And it won‘t require a subscription. At least not at first.
Of course, at this point there is no baseball. The MLB and players union are fighting over money, and the 2022 season is in jeopardy.
MLB and Apple TV+ team up
Fans will be able to watch marquee baseball games on Friday nights, free from local broadcast restrictions, across devices where Apple TV+ can be found. That said, the games will only be available in eight countries: United States, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico, South Korea and the United Kingdom. Apple plans to expand availability to additional countries at a later date.
And there’s more. Fans in the United States will be able to enjoy “MLB Big Inning,” a live show featuring highlights and look-ins airing every weeknight during the regular season.
Plus, baseball fans in the U.S. and Canada will also have access to a new 24/7 livestream with MLB game replays, news and analysis, highlights, classic games, and more. And there will be a full complement of on-demand programming, including highlights and MLB-themed original content.
And all of this will be available without the need for an Apple TV+ subscription… for a limited time. Apple clearly views sports as a way to grow its audience, and free games are a way to accomplish that.
Please stand by
“We’re proud to make Apple TV+ the home for great baseball moments throughout the season,” said Peter Stern, Apple’s VP of Services. “Just like all baseball fans, we can’t wait for the season to open.”
But that wait could be a long one. The owners of baseball teams locked out the players in December 2021, and the two groups are locked in what are reportedly acrimonious discussions.
Opening Day is supposed to be March 31. It seems unlikely the negotiations will conclude in time for that to happen. Especially because spring training is not happening now, as it ordinarily would be.
Not exactly a surprise
Despite the current difficulties, the agreement with MLB is a big deal for Apple’s streaming service, and one long in the making. Apple hired former Amazon exec Jim DeLorenzo in 2020 to head up sports for its streaming video service. Of course, at that time Apple TV+ didn’t have any sports, so DeLorenzo’s job was to get some.
Previously, he served as head of sports at Amazon Video, where he extended that streaming service’s rights to show NFL games. He was almost certainly the Apple rep at the talks with MLB.
The MLB deal was announced at Apple’s “Peek Performance” event. Other highlights include the third-generation iPhone SE, the Mac Studio desktop and the iPad Air 5.
Note: The article was updated to indicate that Apple TV+ access to baseball games will initially be available without a subscription.