Will Apple’s MLB Deal Make Watching Baseball Cheaper?

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On March 9th, Apple and MLB announced a streaming deal that gives Apple exclusive rights to two Major League games per week for “Friday Night Baseball,” a new program for Apple TV+ subscribers. Apple reportedly paid upwards of $85 million for the rights to just two games per week, and is offering them for free to anyone with internet access starting on April 8th.

This baseball season, each Friday night, users will have to tune into Apple TV+ to watch primetime double headers rather than having access to them on cable or network TV. The schedule for the first three months of games was just released, and the first game streamed live on Apple’s service will be the New York Mets against the Washington Nationals, live from Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. on April 8th at 7pm E.T. The two weekly games will be available for free through June 24th, and presumably will be put behind a subscription paywall after that.

  

The Sports and Streaming Worlds Are Getting Closer

The sports and streaming domains have also recently collided in the world of pro football, with the announcement that NFL’s Thursday Night Football is airing exclusively on Amazon’s Prime Video app. The 11-year agreement means the e-commerce giant is shelling out $1 billion per year for exclusive streaming rights to just 15 regular season games. The takeaway here? There’s money for these streaming services in the world of sports, but will it make it easier for fans to access the games they love?

Up until now, the worlds of streaming and sports have felt separate. There are sports-specific streaming services, but if you’re a casual fan or someone who only watches 1-2 sports, these may not have felt like a worthwhile investment. Cable packages are also quite pricey, and only 39% of Americans preferred live TV over on-demand streaming content in a 2018 Hub Entertainment Research survey, reported by Deadline. Apple TV+ could make it easier for anyone with internet to watch some of the best baseball of the week, or at least that’s the plan.

  

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MLB on Apple TV+ Deal: “An Exciting New Platform”

In an Apple press release announcing the deal, Noah Garden, MLB’s Chief Revenue Officer said “Apple is the ideal partner to bring ‘Friday Night Baseball’ to fans around the world.”

“Following milestones like the launch of At Bat on day one of the App Store in 2008 to the integration of Apple technology in ballparks across the country, this robust new game package is the perfect next collaboration in our long history of offering quality and innovative content to our fans.”

“With national availability and international reach, MLB on Apple TV+ offers an exciting new platform to fans that allows a wider audience to connect with the game.”

An MLB league official told SPY that with this deal, MLB hopes to not just make the games easier for fans everywhere to watch, but to also follow the shifting tides of consumer habits and invest where people are watching their content. More and more people sit outside the cable bundle, and offering the first few months of the season for free makes these games easier to access than games available on cable.

MLB also hopes to continue to be a leader in the streaming space, the league official said, alongside MLB.TV’s 20th year as an out-of-market streaming package. They’ve also previously offered packages with Facebook in 2018, Facebook and YouTube in 2019, and YouTube in 2020 and 2021.

Baseball has 2,430 total games per season, and with that number and their large, dedicated fan base, MLB’s product is well-suited to be a valuable asset to streaming platforms as a way to distinguish themselves from their competitors, the league official added. This is true, and the price tag of this deal points to Apple’s investment in sports as a way to cut above the competition.

Apple TV+ reportedly tapped out at 20 million paid subscribers last year, less than a tenth of Netflix’s 222 million, but they’ve got the deep pockets needed to acquire a deal like this one. This could be Apple’s way of trying to gain ground in pro sports, and become the go-to for not just Oscar-winning entertainment, but live sports as well.

But, will this make it cheaper for fans to tune in every week and watch? Let’s crunch some numbers.

  

Will Streaming Make Watching Baseball Cheaper?

For the sake of clarity of subject, for this piece we’re going to focus on baseball specifically, and whether or not streaming is actually going to make watching baseball cheaper this season. The short answer? It depends on the type of baseball fan you are.

The monthly subscription fee for Apple TV+ is just $4.99 per month, a measly price compared to sports cable packages.

Here’s a breakdown:

  • DIRECTV Choice — $102 per month
  • Hulu + Live TV — $64.99 per month
  • YouTube TV — $64.99 per month
  • Sling TV Combined — $50 per month

Mind you, these packages come with comprehensive coverage of all the games from multiple sports, including baseball, and Apple’s deal is for two baseball games per week.

MLB.TV costs $129.99 per year or $24.99 per month for access to all the games, or $109.99 per season for one team, if you’re loyal to a certain club.

This makes Apple TV+’s new deal very lucrative for casual baseball fans who tune into games when it’s convenient, like Friday night, and don’t cover the season super closely.

Short Term? No. Long Term? Probably.

The problem? Starting on April 8th, the Friday night doubleheaders are exclusively available on Apple TV+, meaning they’re no longer watchable via a sports cable package. After the free period runs out, you’ll need to pay for both to watch those games, and games during the rest of the week. Since these sports streaming deals tend to extend over multiple years, and Apple already had to pony up a hefty paycheck just for two games per week, we’re guessing it’ll be awhile before all the games are available on one platform. This will probably annoy some dedicated fans who want to watch more than two games per week, and will be more expensive for them in the short term.

However, in the long term, as streamers continue to acquire the rights to sports content and undercut the price of cable by wide margins, the cost of watching baseball will drop and games will become more convenient. You’ll be able to tune in live as easily as you can currently watch Apple TV+ on your laptop, tablet or smartphone, and switch between a game and your new favorite drama series seamlessly.

  

What You Get With Your Apple TV+ Subscription

In addition to the “Friday Night Baseball” double header, MLB fans will also gain access to “MLB Big Inning,” a live show that’ll air every weeknight during the reason and feature highlights, look-ins and other commentary on the games.

For $4.99 Per Month, Apple TV+ Subscribers Will Get:

  • Access to 2 “Friday Night Baseball” games
  • “MLB Big Inning”
  • A new 24/7 livestream with game replays, highlights, news and analysis
  • MLB-themed original content

There aren’t a ton of details about the rest of the deal’s offerings quite yet, but we’ll keep you updated as more news comes out.

  

How to Sign Up for “Friday Night Baseball” on Apple TV+

If you’re already signed up for Apple TV+, there’s nothing you need to do. You’ll get access to MLB’s “Friday Night Baseball” as soon as the season starts.

If you’re not currently a subscriber, all you need to do to gain access to the games is sign up at the link below. Apple offers a 7-day free trial, and afterwards you’ll pay $4.99 per month.

They also offer 3 free months with the purchase of a new Apple device. Check out some of our favorite Apple deals to find a discounted device, and save on streaming in the process.