Today Apple announced the return of “Friday Night Baseball” on Apple TV+ for the 2023 season and is once again focused on the consumer experience first, including discovery and interactive features. In collaboration with Major League Baseball (MLB), Apple TV+ subscribers will be able to watch two unrestricted weekly headlining games over 25 weeks beginning on Friday, April 7, 2023, alongside exclusive news, and supplemental content. Apple has also made a deal with DirecTV to deliver “Friday Night Baseball” to more than 300,000 public locations across the United States including but not limited to bars, restaurants, and hotel lounges.
To reach more fans than ever, these weekly games will be available in 60 countries and regions as well as on any device that supports the Apple TV+ app. Apple TV+ subscribers in the United States and Canada will have access to exclusive live content and coverage such as the “MLB Big Inning”, “Countdown to First Pitch”, “MLB Daily Recap”, and “MLB This Week”.
Baseball fans will additionally be able to follow personalized news and MLB highlights across the Apple ecosystem of devices and services. Apple News subscribers will enjoy a personalized feed of highlights within the “My Sports” section of the News app while Apple Music+ subscribers will find exclusive playlists of walk-up songs from MLB players alongside other related playlists.
This is a big move for Apple and represents an alliance that will help Apple TV+ acquire more viewers while gaining another important edge forward in the ever-intensifying streaming wars. Content is king and sports content is the most valuable and unique content a service can acquire. As a technology company, Apple is also uniquely equipped to provide a better interactive fan experience from a linear broadcast.
Apple TV+ is focusing on sports content to help the service retain and increase its subscribers. With over 21 million US subscribers as of Q4 2022, according to Parks Associates OTT Market Tracker, the streaming service has successfully maintained subscribers through the initial free trial of a small library of highly desirable content, such as Ted Lasso.
According to Parks Associates’ consumer research, the three most popular sports watched in the US are football (both professional and college), basketball (NBA), and baseball (MLB). Currently, 50% of internet households who watch sports content watch MLB games throughout the season.
A byproduct of the fragmentation of online media rights is the consumer’s need to complete multiple steps to access their desired content. Baseball is the most fragmented sport with distribution of games typically going to many different broadcasters. It is harder than ever for baseball, and sports fans generally, to find where games air on traditional TV or a streaming service.
While the Apple and MLB deal does not solve for the discovery frustration for fans, it does enable Apple and MLB to expand its base across the globe and not just fans in the US. Apple TV+ relies primarily on the strength of its original programming, adding live sports to the service gives Apple TV+ a new and unique asset from which to expand its base, especially beyond its younger segment. According to Parks Associates research the average age of Apple TV+ subscribers is 40 years old, significantly younger than the reported average MLB fan’s age of 57. But this extra content and availability comes at a cost to consumers. Last year the games aired for free. This year it will be $6.99 per month for a subscription to Apple TV+ at a time when households are already feeling financial pressure.
To learn more about recent events within the entire sports media and OTT landscape, check out the OTT & Sports: Services and Strategies for Growth Industry Report written by Parks Associates’ Senior Contributing Analyst, Eric Sorensen.