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Apple TV+ is getting into the live sports business.
The streamer has struck a rights deal with Major League Baseball to carry a weekly doubleheader of games on Fridays, starting with the 2022 season — whenever that may begin. Baseball’s owners locked out the players in December, and the two sides haven’t yet come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement. On March 1, Commissioner Rob Manfred canceled the first week of regular season games, which were slated to begin at the end of the month.
The MLB deal is the first foray into live sports for Apple TV+. Its Friday Night Baseball package will feature two weekly matchups along with pre- and postgame shows, with no local blackouts. Apple will also produce MLB Big Inning, a live show featuring highlights and look-ins to games on every weeknight of the regular season.
Games will be available to Apple TV+ users in the United States, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico, South Korea and the United Kingdom.
“Just like all baseball fans, we can’t wait for the season to open,” said Peter Stern, vp services at Apple. “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.”
Said MLB chief revenue officer Noah Garden, “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.”
Streaming platforms have been adding live sports at a fairly healthy pace over the past two years. Amazon’s Prime Video will have exclusive rights to the NFL’s Thursday Night Football package starting with the 2022 season, while NBCUniversal’s Peacock has English Premier League soccer and the Olympics as mainstays of its offerings. Paramount+ also features several international soccer leagues, and HBO Max made its first move into the field last week as part of a Turner Sports deal with U.S. Soccer.
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