March 9: In addition to their deal with Apple, MLB has also finalized a streaming rights deal with NBC Sports, reports Mike Ozanin of Forbes. NBC will purchase the rights to the Monday Night Baseball and Wednesday Night Baseball packages that ESPN did not include in its new deal with MLB. Those games will “mainly” be streamed on NBC’s Peacock streaming service, though specific broadcast details have not yet been announced by MLB or by NBC.
The pair of new streaming deals will pay MLB $115MM annually, Ozanin further reports. MLB’s deal with Apple is a seven-year contract that comes out to $85MM annually. The NBC/Peacock deal is shorter, clocking in at two years and $30MM in annual rights fees. It’s not yet expressly clear that the NBC deal will make those games exclusive to Peacock, but assuming that’s the case (as it is with Apple), the league would be subtracting somewhere around 100 total games (perhaps a bit more) from its MLB.tv package with this pair of new streaming deals.
Under MLB’s previous deals with ESPN, FOX and TBS, the league pulled in an average of $1.55 billion in annual television rights between the regular season and the playoffs. Their newest batch of contracts with those providers, plus the recent additions of Apple and NBC, give MLB a 26% increase in television and streaming revenue — up to an average of $1.96 billion each year, according to Ozanin. That comes out to about $65MM per club, before factoring in each team’s local/regional broadcast contracts.
March 8: Major League Baseball and Apple announced Tuesday that they have agreed to a streaming deal that will see two Friday night games streamed exclusively on Apple TV+ each week, beginning with the 2022 season. “Friday Night Baseball” will feature live pregame and postgame shows and will be available in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico, South Korea and the United Kingdom. Apple TV+ will also offer a program called “MLB Big Inning” to U.S. viewers, which the press release describes as a “live show featuring highlights and look-ins airing every weeknight during the regular season.”
The new service will allow fans to watch “marquee” games each Friday which will be “free from local broadcast restrictions.” Fans who are frustrated by the blackout issues that have served as a persistent source of consternation for MLB.tv users will surely welcome an alternative — particularly those who are already subscribe to Apple TV+.
However, the Friday Night Baseball deal now removes two games per week from that same MLB.tv package, given that today’s press release from Apple emphasizes the exclusivity of those Friday night broadcasts. That’s sure to raise the ire of MLB.tv users who do not have an active Apple TV+ subscription, as they’ll now be required to sign up for an additional monthly service if they wish to catch those Friday night contests. Today’s press release indicates that “for a limited time,” Friday Night Baseball will be accessible without a subscription but offers no further detail.
Of course, it’s only natural to see Major League Baseball continue to push into the streaming space, as they’ve done in recent years with live-game broadcasts on YouTube and Facebook. Other such deals will surely follow, particularly given how prominent this model is becoming throughout all of professional sports. Amazon Prime began streaming Thursday Night Football games in recent years, for instance, while other services like Peacock, Hulu and Paramount+ have increasingly begun to offer exclusive live sports streams as part of their models. There’s considerable profit to be gained by expanding streaming partnerships in this fashion, even if it comes at the expense of MLB watering down its longstanding MLB.tv offerings.
“Apple is the ideal partner to bring ‘Friday Night Baseball’ to fans around the world,” MLB chief revenue officer Noah Garden said in a statement within today’s press release. “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.”