Apple TV+ Offering Limited Free Streaming Access to ‘Friday Night Baseball’ MLB Games

Apple TV+ is set to begin streaming for free select “Friday Night Baseball” games — beginning April 8 with the Houston Astros vs. Los Angeles Angels, and Washington Senators vs. New York Mets — as part of a seven-year, $595 million deal that affords the subscription streaming platform access to two Major League Baseball games a week. This is Apple’s first move into live sports programming.

For the first six weeks of the season, “Friday Night Baseball” will be available for free without subscription on Apple TV+ in the United States, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico, South Korea and the United Kingdom.

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Streamers in the U.S. will also have access to “MLB Big Inning,” a live show featuring highlights and look-ins airing every weeknight during the regular season. North American streamers will also have access to a new 24/7 livestream with MLB game replays, news and analysis, highlights, classic games, and more, as well as a full complement of on-demand programming, including highlights and MLB-themed original content.

“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, VP of Services at Apple, said in a statement earlier this month.

Sinclair’s Bally Sports Live Streaming Service to Miss Major League Baseball Opening

Sinclair Broadcast Group last year spent almost $10 billion acquiring 21 former Fox (renamed Bally Sports) regional sports networks with an eye toward live-streaming Major League Baseball to consumers. With the baseball season beginning April 7, Sinclair’s pending Bally Sports streaming service offering access to five MLB teams (Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers, Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers and Tampa Bay Rays) reportedly isn’t slated to “soft launch” until this summer.

Sinclair, which has broadcast rights to all 30 MLB teams, is looking to establish first-mover status in live sports streaming at the regional level concurrent with a brand name synonymous with gambling. The media company also has streaming deals with the Chicago Cubs through their joint Marquee Sports Network, the New York Yankees as a part owner of the ballclub’s YES Network.

“It is the start of a new paradigm for how fans can watch and engage with their local teams,” CEO Chris Ripley said on last month’s fiscal all. “The potential market for a [direct-to-consumer] product is significant as approximately 83 million households reside in the territories for which we currently have DTC rights.”

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Fast-forward a month, and the Bally Sports streaming service — with a goal of 4.4 million subscribers paying $20 monthly to stream out-of-market baseball games — remains wishful thinking.

The Kansas City Star reported that the Royals expects to offer fans a streaming option by the second quarter, according to ballclub CEO John Sherman.

“We’re working on some things. Sinclair is working on some things,” Sherman told reporters last week during the club’s spring training stint in Arizona. “I don’t know how long it will take. The whole landscape is changing, streaming, the way young people consume the game and connect to teams and players. But there’s a lot of work being done at MLB right now with some really bright people on our media committee. And we’re monitoring Sinclair and that whole situation.”

With Disney-owned Hulu with Live TV and YouTube TV both dropping Bally Sports, Sinclair finds itself under pressure to diversify its distribution channels — a sentiment, Sherman says, ballclubs share.

“When you think about that, reach is more important than revenue for us in baseball,” he said, downplaying media suggestions that the recent delay to the start of the baseball spring training was due to a revenue disagreement with the players’ union.

“I think a lot of what you heard during the CBA was all we cared about was revenue,” Sherman said. “But reach is more important than revenue. Revenue will come if we connect with more fans over time. That’s the strategy that we’re employing. How we get there, I think there’s some turbulence. But we want to make it easy for people to connect and see our games.”

Report: Peacock Adding Major League Baseball to Streaming Platform

NBCUniversal’s streaming platform Peacock is reportedly getting exclusive access to select Major League Baseball games as part of a new $30 million two-year licensing agreement. The Monday and Wednesday Night games were made available after Disney-owned ESPN (and ESPN+) elected not to pick them up.

Peacock’s deal follows on the heels of MLB’s seven-year, $595 million streaming agreement with Apple TV+ for two Friday Night games, or about 50 games total.

Peacock, along with Paramount+, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV+, has not shied away from live sports, with the SVOD/AVOD hybrid platform live streaming the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and Super Bowl LVI. Market leader Netflix heretofore has not expressed interest in live sports, opting instead for reality-based series on Formula 1 auto racing, and reportedly soon European professional bike racing, including the Tour de France.

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MLB’s new $1.96 billion TV agreement, which is 26% more than the previous deal, is at the center of the current contract dispute between the league’s 30 clubs and the players’ union.

Apple TV+ Inks Streaming Deal With Major League Baseball

Major League Baseball remains shut down due to a contract dispute between the players and club owners, but that didn’t stop Apple from swinging for the fences for the national pastime.
 
Apple and MLB March 8 announced the pending debut of “Friday Night Baseball,” a weekly doubleheader with live pre- and post-game shows that will be available to fans in eight countries exclusively on Apple TV+ as soon as the regular season begins. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
 
In addition to “Friday Night Baseball,” streamers in the U.S. will be able to enjoy “MLB Big Inning,” a live show featuring highlights and look-ins airing every weeknight during the regular season. North American baseball fans will also have access to a new 24/7 livestream with MLB game replays, news and analysis, highlights, classic games and more, as well as a full complement of on-demand programming, including highlights and MLB-themed original content.
 
Fans will be able to stream marquee games on Friday nights, free from local broadcast restrictions, across devices where Apple TV+ can be found, including on the Apple TV app on iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple TV 4K and HD, and on tv.apple.com, along with select smart TVs, gaming consoles and cable set-top boxes.
 
 
“Friday Night Baseball” will be available on Apple TV+ — and, for a limited time, without the need for a subscription.
 
“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,” Peter Stern, VP of Apple Services, said in a statement.
 
Apple TV+, which launched in 2019 days ahead of Disney+, remains an industry anomaly, struggling to make a subscriber impact akin to competitors such as HBO Max. While Apple has never released Apple TV+ subscriber data, the company reportedly had about 700 million subs across its “Services” business segment, which includes Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Pay, Apple Arcade and Apple News, among other assets.
 
“Friday Night Baseball” will be available on Apple TV+ in the United States, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico, South Korea and the United Kingdom, and will expand to additional countries at a later date.
Apple and MLB will also provide enhanced league and team coverage for fans to easily follow the league or their favorite teams in Apple News, with the ability to watch highlights right in the News app.
 
“Apple is the ideal partner to bring ‘Friday Night Baseball’ to fans around the world,” said Noah Garden, MLB’s chief revenue officer.
 
Garden said MLB and Apple first partnered in 2008 with the launch of At Bat on day one of the App Store in 2008, to the current integration of Apple technology in ballparks across the country.
 
“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,” Garden said.
 

2021 World Series Game Film, Complete Series Coming to Blu-ray Disc from Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory has set a Dec. 14 release date for 2021 World Series Collector’s Edition: The Atlanta Braves, an eight-disc Blu-ray Disc set that includes the official 2021 World Series highlight film, all six complete game broadcasts from the 2021 World Series and a bonus disc including the clinching NLCS Game 6 against the Dodgers. The package will retail for $74.98. Each game includes four audio options, allowing home audiences to watch the games while listening to the network television announcers, the Atlanta Braves Radio Network, or a Spanish-language version of the broadcasts.

Shout! Factory is also releasing a two-disc Blu-ray Disc + DVD set, with a runtime of 90 minutes, that includes just the World Series highlight film from Major League Baseball, narrated by Braves fan and multiple Grammy Award-winner Chris “Ludacris” Bridges. This set carries a suggested retail price of $19.98. The official World Series documentary will also be available for purchase on all major digital platforms two weeks ahead of the disc release, on Nov. 30.

When the Braves capped their championship run with a 7-0 victory over the Astros in Game 6, they completed one of the most spectacular late-season surges in baseball history. Halfway through the regular season, the team had a losing record and were dealt a season-ending injury to superstar and NL MVP candidate Ronald Acuna Jr. GM Alex Anthopoulos deftly traded for Joc Pederson, Jorge Soler, Adam Duvall and Eddie Rosario, changing the course of the season in undeniable ways. Braves lifer and manager Brian Snitker now had his crew, and the Braves caught fire with a 36-19 (.655) finish to claim the NL East Division championship. They then beat the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLDS and dethroned the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS to set the matchup with the Astros, a franchise playing in the World Series for the third time in five years.

White Sox Prevail in Real ‘Field of Dreams’ Baseball Game

In 1989, Universal Pictures’ baseball-themed family fantasy Field of Dreams became a box office and subsequent home entertainment hit. Kevin Costner co-starred as a Iowa farmer who in a tribute to his deceased father, a baseball fan, plows his cornfield and builds a makeshift baseball diamond (“If you build it, he will come”) so ghosts from the disgraced 1919 Chicago White Sox World Series team can re-emerge and play ball.

In that series with the Cincinnati Reds, eight members of the White Sox, including “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, were accused of throwing the contest for money, in what would become known as the Black Sox Scandal. The players were permanently banned from MLB — despite their acquittal in a trial two years later. The movie was based on the W.P. Kinsella novel Shoeless Joe.

Aug. 12, Major League Baseball came to Dyersville, Iowa, where the movie was filmed, to feature the White Sox playing the New York Yankees. It was the first MLB game ever played in Iowa, and a reported 8,000 people showed up, including Costner, to watch in a specially constructed stadium in a cornfield near the field built for the movie. The game featured throwback jerseys, eight home runs, and the White Sox winning 9-8 on a walk-off blast in the bottom of the ninth inning by Tim Anderson. The game, “MLB at Field of Dreams Game presented by GEICO,” aired live on Fox Sports.

“Being able to walk it off was definitely one of the best moments of my career, for sure,” Anderson told the media after the game.

“That was as special and breathtaking a setting for a baseball game as I’ve ever been part of,” added Yankees skipper Aaron Boone.

YouTube, MLB Renew Streaming Deal for 21 Regular Season Games

Major League Baseball is just around the corner, and the national past time has renewed for the third time an over-the-top video distribution agreement — “MLB Game of the Week Live on YouTube” — with the Google-owned streaming platform.

The new agreement calls for the availability of 21 regular season games, beginning on April 7 at 1 p.m. ET, with the defending American League champion Tampa Bay Rays facing the Boston Red Sox. The ad-supported games are free to viewers who click on the MLB YouTube channel or subscribe to YouTube TV.

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Other YouTube games include the April 22 contest between the Los Angeles Angels and the Houston Astros at 8 p.m. ET; and the AL Central Division champion Minnesota Twins traveling to Cleveland to take on the Indians on April 28 at 1 p.m. ET.

A new feature this season is the “YouTube Player of the Game” feature enabling viewers on mobile devices and PCs the ability to vote for the standout player, who will receive a special trophy during the postgame show. Meanwhile, viewers will also be able to access live game commentary from sports-focused YouTube creators, participate in in-game polls, and re-watch key plays and real-time stats.

“Our partnership with MLB is always a highlight on the sports calendar for us and 2021 is going to be our biggest year yet,” Tim Katz, head of sports and news partnerships for YouTube, said in a statement. “YouTube shows up for its partners when and where they need us by offering unique in-game features to engage fans of all ages across the globe. With two successful seasons under our belts, we look forward to delivering 21 games this season to fans who have come to expect our creative presentation that is both easy to access and engaging, and we look forward to taking it to even greater heights.”

The 2020 World Series — Champions: Los Angeles Dodgers

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Shout! Factory;
Sports;
$19.98 DVD, $26.98 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Narrated by Vin Scully.

These World Series recap videos tend to be a bit on the cookie-cutter side — mix in interviews from both teams, focus on the highlights from each game, then hire a celebrity who’s a fan of the winning team to narrate.

Soon after the Los Angeles Dodgers wrapped up the title by defeating the Tampa Bay Rays in six games, I figured since Bryan Cranston had narrated a few Dodgers vignettes over the years, no one would be better suited for the job than him.

Expect for the guy they got.

Vin Scully.

The now-93-year-old broadcasting legend who was the Dodgers play-by-play announcer from 1950 to his retirement in 2016 — right before the Dodgers’ run of making three World Series in the past four years.

Scully had been there for all the previous Dodgers championships, from their lone title in Brooklyn to the previous five since they moved to L.A. in 1958 — 1959, 1963, 1965, 1981 and 1988, the latter being famous for the Kirk Gibson home run.

Amid the global coronavirus pandemic that forced Major League Baseball into taking the unprecedented step of not only shortening the regular season, but also holding most of the postseason at neutral sites, the sound of Vin Scully talking about Dodgers baseball just makes the world seem a little bit closer to normal.

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While it’s nice to relive some of the memories of the title run, when Vin isn’t talking, the documentary kind of reverts to the usual sort of highlights package and behind-the-scenes footage MLB produces to commemorate the just-concluded season. Given how rapidly they make it to shelves after the final game, the recap videos tend to feel as if they are being cobbled together as the series progresses and then after it’s over they’ll tack on some extra footage of the team that ended up winning so as to give the hint of some sort of overarching narrative.

In this case, that means a reminder that this was the eighth year in a row the Dodgers have won the National League West title, but hadn’t converted any of the previous seven into a World Series title — the longest stretch of consecutive division titles without a championship in MLB history. Their last World Series win came in 1988, a three-decade drought they came close to breaking in 2017 before falling short in seven games to the Houston Astros — a series they may well have won if not for Astros cheating using methods that came to light a few years later (which, in accordance with the MLB’s seeming policy of wanting to sweep that scandal under the rug, is completely ignored here).

Other stories swirling around the team heading into the Fall Classic were rumblings about

future Hall of Fame pitcher Clayton Kershaw not being able to win in October, and manager Dave Roberts continually coming up so close to the title but falling short in his five years at the helm.

As Gibson had been the spark for the ’88 team, the key ingredient for 2020 turned out to be Mookie Betts, a superstar player who helped the Boston Red Sox beat the Dodgers in the 2018 World Series, and who the Dodgers acquired in a trade before the season when the Sox were looking to cut payroll. Much to the chagrin of Red Sox nation, Betts subsequently signed a 12-year extension with the Dodgers worth $365 million.

The series itself would end up awash in historic quirks as a result of the pandemic. After cutting short Spring Training in March, MLB shut things down until July, when teams began an abbreviated, regional 60-game regular season with no fans at the ballpark, as opposed to the usual 162-game campaign. As an added wrinkle, the playoffs were expanded, and the Division, League Championship and World Series were played at stadiums neutral to the teams involved, so the league could maintain a COVID-free bubble. The Dodgers essentially spent October making the Texas Rangers’ stadium near Dallas their home away from home.

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The World Series film doesn’t really delve into the earlier playoff matchups (except in the bonus materials), and thus doesn’t mention one of the more amusing coincidences resulting from the unusual playoff circumstances — all of the qualifying Central Division teams from each league lost in the first round. So the Division series were all contested between teams from the same division. And the League Championship series were each West vs. East affairs in which neither team had played each other before during the regular season.

Likewise, with the Rays winning the American League pennant over the hated Astros, the World Series was also an East/West matchup — featuring the teams with the best records in each league, the best combined record since 1906, and were similar unfamiliar with each other.

In another coincidence, bubble delays to the NHL and NBA pushed their playoffs back several months, with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Los Angeles Lakers winning their respective league titles just a few weeks before the World Series — making Dodgers vs. Rays a sort of tie-breaker for the region seeking bragging rights and the moniker of “Titletown” for 2020.

But that’s just trivia for the sports-minded in general. Bringing in Scully to narrate the movie really pays off in the end, when he adds a personal reflection linking the Dodgers’ seventh title to the six that came before — a montage of historical moments that will surely bring a tear to any Dodger fans’ eye.

It should be noted there seems to be a brief audio glitch during Scully’s wrap-up ruminations — one that’s part of the audio mix since it’s consistent on both the Blu-ray and the DVD offered in the combo pack.

Extras on the 2020 World Series Blu-ray include a five-minute recap of the Dodgers’ season, eight minutes of Dodgers season highlights, a nine-minute montage of highlights from the Dodgers’ games to clinch a playoff spot, the NL West, the Wild Card series over the Milwaukee Brewers, the NLDS over the San Diego Padres, and the NLCS over the Atlanta Braves, in which the Dodgers had to rebound from being down 3-1 in the best-of-seven series.

There is also a 14-minute video of select post-game interviews with Dodgers players following their title win.

Highlight Film of Dodgers’ 2020 World Series Championship Arriving Dec. 8, Narrated by Vin Scully

Shout! Factory Dec. 8 will release The 2020 World Series, the highlight film of Major League Baseball’s 2020 championship season that saw the Los Angeles Dodgers win the Fall Classic. The film will be narrated by longtime Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully, who retired in 2016. It will also be available on the same date digitally, to own and rent from all major platforms.

The coronavirus pandemic presented many challenges to the 2020 baseball season, cutting short spring training and forcing the league to adjust to an abbreviated 60-game schedule with expanded playoffs in a quarantine bubble and a World Series played at a neutral site for the first time in history.

Through it all, the powerhouse Dodgers lineup, one of the favorites going into the season, emerged with the team’s first championship since 1988, after coming back from a 3-games-to-1 deficit in the National League Championship Series to win a dramatic seventh game against the Atlanta Braves, then defeating the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series in six games.

The official World Series film features in-depth Interviews with Dodgers superstars including Mookie Betts, World Series MVP Corey Seager and pitcher Clayton Kershaw.

“It was 32 years since the Dodgers won a World Series and the seventh in the history of the organization, bringing great joy to their fans and the city of Los Angeles in particular,” Scully said in a statement. “This is their winning story against the Tampa Bay Rays, and it’s an honor for me to recount just how they did it.”

Bonus features include regular season highlights, clinching moments, featurettes and more.

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Dodger fans can also get the 2020 World Series Collector’s Edition: Los Angeles Dodgers Blu-ray Disc set Feb. 9, 2021, featuring eight complete game broadcasts — the six games of the World Series against Tampa Bay, plus the final games of the National League Division Series against the San Diego Padres (Game 3 to complete a sweep) and the National League Championship Series against the Braves (Game 7 to complete the comeback, capped by Cody Bellinger’s home run in the seventh inning).

The games will include multiple audio options — the network TV broadcast, the Dodgers radio announcers, and the Spanish-language broadcast.

The packaging will include a “Sleevestats” insert containing game trivia, official statistics and more.

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Roku: MLB Return Not Driving Pay-TV Viewership

The return of Major League Baseball during the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t resulted in a return to pay-tv, according to new data from Roku. The streaming media device manufacturer/distributor, citing internal research, found that 70% of households that watched baseball in 2019 did not tune in to watch the 2020’s delayed season opening weekend.

A loss of live sports due to COVID-19 is the primary reason 25% of survey respondents said they have dropped pay-TV. Just 20% of those subscribers said they would re-new pay-TV with the return of live sports. The findings counter claims by Disney-owned ESPN and Fox Sports about record opening weekend baseball ratings.

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“The return of MLB was a swing and a miss when it comes to viewership for traditional linear TV as less than one third of baseball’s 2019 household audience tuned in to watch any of the opening week games on linear television,” Gaurav Shirole, director of audience measurement at Roku, said in a statement.

Shirole believes that as live sports returns, fans have found new ways to consume it via video streaming services such as MLB.tv, the SVOD platform affording subscribers out-of-market games live or on-demand.

“Blacked out games are typically available to stream about 90 minutes after their conclusion,” he said.

Other MLB streaming sources include YouTube TV (a sponsor of last year’s World Series), Sling TV, Hulu with Live TV, AT&T TV Now and fuboTV, among others.

Games are also broadcast across a variety of channels, including ESPN, ESPN2, FOX, FS1, TBS, MLB Network and regional networks including NBC Sports and Fox Sports.