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At Tuesday’s Apple event, Apple unveiled the long-standing agreement signed with Major League Baseball. But, at a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult for local fans to watch their team play, this is making the situation worse, not better.
As I write this, MLB is still closed after its COVID-impacted 2021 run and a shortened 2020 campaign. Long story short, the owners have decided they want to negotiate with the players’ union with the training halt, and that will in all likelihood take up much of the start of the season, as spring training isn’t hasn’t even started yet. .
And yet, on Tuesday, Apple announced that every Friday night it would stream two games starting April 8. I tell you now, in all likelihood, the season will not have started then.
This is a nice perk for Apple TV+ subscribers. This will worsen the overall experience for baseball fans.
Watching and broadcasting baseball is complex
I don’t know what year it all started, but MLB viewing is pretty fragmented. The days of baseball playing on your local channel are almost over.
In most markets, a regional sports network (RSN) broadcasts the games for a given market. In New England, for example, it is NESN. In New York and the Red Sox/Yankees neutral zone which is southern Connecticut, it’s YES. Most of the others have a channel owned by Fox.
These channels are on cable or on a streaming package like fuboTV. So they are not already free and you will still get ads on top of what you pay for.
But these channels do not broadcast all the games. Crucial games and random play often air from time to time on ESPN or other national broadcasters like local channels Fox, TBS, or the MLB Network itself.
So, add another service or place you need to pay attention to or pay for.
National providers like Verizon, Cox and DirecTV have national versions of RSNs. But again, networks are not allowed to broadcast games on these channels. So, a package like MLB.TV is needed to watch games for out-of-zone fans.
This is where it starts to get complicated. The MLB.TV streaming package hides games that are in the local area. So if the Yankees are playing the Orioles and you’re a Yankees fan in Maryland, you won’t be able to watch it on MLB.TV because it’s on Baltimore’s RSN.
Because of all of this, if you’re a Red Sox fan in Boston or a Yankees fan in New York, you won’t be able to watch any games on MLB.TV when you’re at home.
Amazon has exclusions for exclusive games, which are then hidden from local programming and other streaming sites.
Apple TV+ and Amazon are a solution for some, but not for the engine that powers the game
This is just the latest chapter in “more fans and less money per fan” versus “fewer fans paying more for the privilege”. Fans are increasingly deprived of watching matches in stadiums. At the same time, MLB complained about declining viewership and revenue, especially in smaller markets.
So, to fix this problem, the league is making changes to the game itself and the financial arrangements. While the scope of the lockdown and bargaining points is beyond the scope of this article, the league continues to say it is trying to smooth things over and bring in new fans, which is part of the purpose of the lockdown and bargaining points. ongoing negotiations.
The Amazon and Apple TV+ offers are not going to attract new fans. Instead, it just makes it harder for most existing fans with what is essentially a genetic and regional imperative to follow their childhood team to follow.
Apple is probably paying them a pretty penny, but the sport relies on viewers and fans who have already started complaining about more game crashes.
Games and daily event coverage will add watch time to existing subscribers’ Apple TV+. I don’t know if this will add many new users to the service, given the number of streaming paths a viewer has to subscribe to to see all the games.
It’s good for Apple, of course. Otherwise, they would not have signed the agreement. It’s good for MLB ownership, because of Apple and Amazon money.
But that’s cold comfort for this longtime fan of a given team. Tell that avid Yankees or Red Sox fan that he’ll miss a crucial midseason game because it won’t air on MLB.TV or his regional sports network.
Instead, tell them they have to hire a big tech giant again to watch it, beyond paying their RSN monthly or at least $109 a year for a single team subscription MLB.tv.
Don’t expect a positive response.