Last week, just before the MLB/MLBPA agreement was made, Apple revealed at one of its public events that they had reached a deal to stream some MLB games on Apple TV+.
From Apple’s press release, quoted in that BCB article link:
Apple and Major League Baseball (MLB) today announced “Friday Night Baseball,” a weekly doubleheader with live pre- and postgame shows that will be available to fans in eight countries exclusively on Apple TV+ as soon as the regular season begins.
In addition to “Friday Night Baseball,” fans in the US will be able to enjoy “MLB Big Inning,” a live show featuring highlights and look-ins airing every weeknight during the regular season. Baseball fans in the US and Canada 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.
The doubleheader games on Friday night will be exclusive to Apple, meaning they won’t be carried by teams’ regional sports networks. The Cubs generally play Friday afternoon games at home, so these won’t be affected. But if a Cubs road game is part of this streaming package, you’ll have to subscribe to Apple TV+ in order to watch. No game times have been announced for this, but I would imagine it will include a game at 6 p.m. CT and another at 9 p.m. CT.
Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported on a new MLB streaming deal that’s nearing completion with NBC, with games to be streamed on the network’s Peacock streaming channel:
The deal with NBCUniversal, a unit of Comcast Corp., would involve a package of 18 games, some beginning at 11:30 a.m. ET and others just after noon, the people said. That would limit the conflict with Sunday games that typically start at 1 p.m., making the telecasts more valuable for Peacock. The games would primarily be played on the East Coast, given the early timing, the people said.
The games would be available exclusively for paying Peacock subscribers, meaning consumers wouldn’t have access through traditional cable-TV packages or other streaming services, such as the MLB’s direct-to-consumer app, the people familiar with the discussions said.
Again, this would mean that games carried via this deal wouldn’t be available on RSNs. There will be 18 games total under this agreement:
Under the terms being discussed with MLB, NBC Sports would produce the pre- and post-game shows, as well as the games. The first game, expected in early May, would air on both NBC’s broadcast network and Peacock, the people familiar with the discussions said. The rest of the 17 games would be exclusively on Peacock.
One thing that I want to make sure to clarify for you: While any games carried by these deals will be exclusive to the channels involved, this does NOT mean other games cannot be broadcast during the time frames indicated. In other words, games not on the Apple or Peacock deals can still be aired on regional sports networks on Fridays and Sundays. If, for example, the Cubs are playing the Brewers on a Friday night in Milwaukee and that game isn’t on Apple TV+ or Peacock, it will be broadcast by Marquee Sports Network or Bally Sports Wisconsin and can be seen on those services, or out-of-market on MLB.TV.
Incidentally, if you are a Comcast/Xfinity subscriber — and I am — you have access to Peacock through your Comcast subscription and will be able to watch these games without additional payment.
This will make it a bit harder to keep up with “What channel is the Cubs game on?” starting this season, but I will make every effort to put all broadcast/cable/satellite/streaming information in every series and game preview.
Oh, yes, one more thing: Money. That’s why these deals are being made. Per this Forbes article by Mike Ozanian, MLB will rake in $115 million a year from these new TV agreements:
The new streaming deal between Major League Baseball and Apple is worth $85 million annually over seven years, according to several sources familiar with the agreement who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the terms.
Under the new pact, Apple will pay a $55 million rights fee and $30 million worth of advertising. Apple gets the exclusive rights to telecast two Friday Night Baseball games each week (about 50 a season) in the U.S. and in eight countries overseas via Apple TV+. Apple has the right to exit the agreement after the first or second year.
In addition, Forbes has learned that MLB has come to terms on a two-year streaming deal with Comcast’s NBCUniversal for an 18-game package of games each season that will be on Peacock’s premium tier and will be exclusive, meaning they won’t be available on MLB.TV, Extra Innings, or the RSNs of the competing teams. The Peacock deal starts this season and is worth $30 million annually.
No wonder players were holding out for a better labor agreement. This was the crux of the labor dispute: Players had been receiving a smaller and smaller percentage of league revenue over time, and yes, I’ll once again repost this chart:
With MLB getting new revenue from these two deals — as well as increased revenue from previously-agreed to contracts with TBS, Fox and ESPN, including around $100 million from ESPN for the expanded postseason — players should be getting more of it. Thus the increased CBT levels are good for players and in the end, good for baseball.
It just means you might have to subscribe to more services in order to watch all the Cubs games this year and going forward. (And that doesn’t even include the potential Cubs streaming deal now being discussed.)