Apple TV+ Swings for the Fences with Friday Night Baseball + MLB Big Inning

Apple MLB Friday Night Baseball Credit: Apple
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We’ve been hearing rumours for years that Apple has been courting the big leagues to bring sports to the Apple TV+, and now it looks like all of its efforts have finally paid off.

Yesterday, Apple CEO Tim Cook opened the company’s Peek Performance event with the sort of opening act that’s become the norm since the company began holding its events virtually nearly two years ago.

During past events, the main show has been headlined by everything from exciting announcements like the HomePod mini and the AirPods 3, to more pedestrian announcements like enhancements to Apple Podcasts, new HomePod colours, and the Apple Music Voice Plan.

This time around, it was time for Tim Cook to announce that Apple is bringing Friday Night Baseball to Apple TV+.

While it’s probably fair to say that this announcement falls much closer to the second category, it’s still pretty big news for Apple’s streaming service, especially since it’s something that the company has been striving for since long before Apple TV+ even launched.

For years, it looks like Apple has set its sights solidly on the NFL, with reports that it was vying for streaming rights to Thursday Night Football as far back as 2016 — over a year before Apple TV+ had even begun to take shape.

Despite reports that Tim Cook has always been on very friendly terms with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, in the end, these deals still come down to the almighty buck, and others such as Amazon have won the NFL over. Apple may have the raw funds to beat out its rivals, but it can’t promise nearly the same number of eyeballs — and it definitely couldn’t do so back in 2016.

Still, for years, Apple seemed to have a pretty single-minded focus on getting into bed with the NFL. After Amazon picked up NFL Thursday Night Football, Apple set its sights on NFL Sunday Ticket. However, while it may still be pursuing that, it doesn’t look too promising.

Apple is also reportedly dabbling in live collegiate sports such as the Pac-12 conference, and there are rumours those games could come to Apple TV+ by 2024.

In early January, however, rumours began circulating that Apple was looking at a new angle: Major League Baseball.

While The New York Post said that Apple had been in “substantial talks” about carrying MLB games, most of us took the news with a grain of salt. After all, we’ve heard this song many times before.

Surprisingly, however, not only did these talks result in a tangible deal, but it all came together much more quickly than anybody would have expected, earning Apple TV+ its first-ever sports deal.

While it’s only Friday Night Baseball for now, the reports never suggested that the Apple and MLB deal was going to be a big one. At the time, rumour had it that Apple was hoping to just get its foot in the door, likely discussing the Monday and Wednesday weekday games package that ESPN had walked away from.

The fact that Apple picked up Friday Night Baseball instead is actually something of a coup for the Cupertino company, as that’s a much bigger deal than the weekday games, which wouldn’t have been exclusive.

Friday Night Baseball and MLB Big Inning

Friday Night Baseball will consist of a weekly doubleheader that will also include pre- and postgame shows, and air exclusively on Apple TV+ for fans in eight countries.

For folks in the U.S., It won’t be just about Friday nights, however. Apple is also running MLB Big Inning, a live show airing every weeknight during the regular season that will feature highlights and look-ins on what’s going on.

Plus, baseball fans in the U.S. and Canada will get access to a 24/7 livestream consisting of an all-you-can-watch buffet of everything MLB. This will include MLB game replays, news and analysis, highlights, classic games, and much more. Apple also adds that a full complement of on-demand program will be coming, including highlights and MLB-themed original content.

Of course, the biggest aspect of Apple’s new MLB partnership will be the Friday night games, which will be free from local “blackout” broadcast restrictions — something that even a subscription to the MLB at Bat app never fully unlocked. They’ll also naturally be viewable on every device where Apple’s TV app can be found, from the Apple TV 4K, iPad, and iPhone, to smart TVs, gaming consoles, and cable set-top boxes.

Just like all baseball fans, we can’t wait for the season to open. Baseball has a special place in the heart of so many Apple customers — not just in the United States, but in many countries around the world. We’re proud to make Apple TV+ the home for great baseball moments throughout the season.

Peter Stern, Apple’s vice president of Services

While Apple hasn’t said how long this will last, Friday Night Baseball will initially be available on Apple TV+ without a subscription “for a limited time.” After that window closes, an Apple TV+ subscription will be required to watch it, but it won’t cost extra. There’s only one tier of Apple TV+ subscription, and it includes everything Apple has to offer.

Apple is also trying the new partnership into Apple News, where it stays that fans will be able to get “enhanced league and team coverage,” along with the ability to watch game highlights directly in the News app.

In addition to the U.S. and Canada, Friday Night Baseball will also be available in Australia, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico, South Korea, and the United Kingdom, with more countries coming down the road.

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