At last week’s Apple event, they announced that they would be broadcasting Friday Night Baseball that would be a weekly doubleheader with live pre and post-game shows available in eight countries exclusively on Apple TV+. 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. It will expand to additional countries at a later date.
They also stated, “In addition to “Friday Night Baseball,” fans in the US will be able to enjoy “MLB featuring Big Inning,” a live show highlights and look-ins airing every weeknight during the regular season. In addition, baseball fans in the US and Canada will also have access to a new 24/7 live stream 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 watch 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.”
This move into sports broadcasting is exciting and important for various reasons. You may recall that Steve Jobs told his biographer, Walter Isaacson, that “He very much wanted to do for television sets what he had done for computers, music players, and phones: make them simple and elegant,” Isaacson wrote.
Isaacson continued: “‘I’d like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use,’ he told me. ‘It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud.’ No longer would users have to fiddle with complex remotes for DVD players and cable channels. ‘It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it.'”
Although Jobs referred to creating a tv set, his true vision centered on seamlessly syncing all of your devices and the iCloud and a simple user interface, although he away before he could create any hardware related to this vision. It has been clear that the Apple TV box, developed under Tim Cook, was an even more intelligent way to achieve Jobs’ vision since it delivers Steve’s true software and services concept to any TV set and the Mac, iPhone, and the iPad.
More importantly, Tim Cook and the team expanded Jobs’ vision to include original content, thus making Apple much more competitive in today’s streaming media world with Netflix, Amazon, Disney, etc.
With the news of the MLB Friday Night baseball deal, Apple has taken baby steps into an important sports broadcasting and original content area. While the broadcasts will be done through the MLB network, Apple will create specialized and original programing through pre and post-game shows and add exclusive commentary.
The Apple/MLB deal is significant as it signals a broader goal for Apple to eventually become a powerful sports entertainment medium in its own right. Baseball is the first step in this quest to make Apple TV+ an eventual powerhouse in sports broadcasting.
The big question is, what other sports does Apple have an interest in bringing to Apple TV+?
From a US perspective, the NFL is the most likely next sport that Apple could bring to Apple TV+ and create original programming around it soon. This may be more difficult due to the major US networks locking up most broadcast rights. However, since American Football is garnering more interest around the world, perhaps Apple could convince the NFL to give them rights to broadcast games across the globe, which in turn could help the NFL broaden its reach.
Another sport with worldwide appeal is Hockey. This is another sport that could be ripe for Apple to gain some broadcasting rights beyond US borders.
However, perhaps the most significant opportunity for Apple to become a world-class sports broadcaster would be to cut deals with local soccer teams around the world and expand their sports ambitions worldwide.
As you may know, soccer is the most-watched sport around the world. In 2018, 526.6 million watched the Men’s World Cup final. That same year the worldwide audience for the Super Bowl was a mere 106.5 million. However, the World Cup final match in which France beat Croatia in Russia had more than one billion viewers.
Apple’s deal with MLB enforces their interest in sports as a medium they want to include in Apple TV+. I see it as the first of many sports deals Apple could make in the coming years.
The critical thing here is Apple taking sports worldwide. This is something that US sports organizations have not done well, and Apple could be the one who helps broaden these sports internationally. For example, what if Apple got the rights to broadcast NFL games to Spain and then wraps local commentators and commentary from Apple hired experts. It could teach these audiences about American football and get them more interested in this US sport.
In a sense, broadcasting sports worldwide and adding local content and commentary would be a greenfield opportunity for many sports leagues and Apple.
Given Apple’s worldwide audience and their desire to add more programming and their content to Apple TV+, integrating sports into their service offerings would make a lot of sense. And it could propel them into becoming a powerhouse in sports broadcasting.