Amid ongoing talk of which streaming service will eventually become the new home of NFL Sunday Ticket, Apple has often been mentioned as one of the frontrunners. After all, the NFL would love to have access to the millions of people who own an iPhone or other Apple device, and an Apple deal would reach considerably more people than the league’s current Sunday Ticket partner, DirecTV.
There’s one thing to keep in mind when it comes to these discussions: Apple has never been a sports broadcaster before. It has no sports branch and does not employ any broadcasters or producers. One of its reported rivals for the Sunday Ticket package, Amazon, currently broadcasts NFL games and recently became the league’s exclusive partner for Thursday Night Football.
But now a new report indicates that Apple is making an offer on another major sports deal.
the New York Post reported on Tuesday that Apple is in “serious” talks with Major League Baseball about a deal to broadcast baseball games nationwide, presumably on Apple TV+. No dollar figure was given for the rights fee Apple would pay the league.
The report notes that while Apple has not previously been a broadcaster, the company and MLB have a long-standing business relationship, with the MLB app being part of the App Store when it launched in 2008.
The deal would be for weekday domestic games, which were previously shown on ESPN. ESPN will continue to broadcast the weekly Sunday night baseball game. If Apple acquired the package, they would likely hire a production and broadcast team in time for the 2022 season.
It was reported last year that controversial sports media company Barstool Sports was considering taking over a midweek games package, but those talks do not appear to have resulted in a deal.
MLB is currently in the midst of an off-season lockdown, and if the Apple deal goes through, MLB games will not appear on the streaming service until the lockdown is resolved.
It should be noted that the package in question is for domestic games, which are separate from the local broadcasts produced for each individual team in the league. These games are primarily broadcast on Regional Sports Networks (RSN), although there are indications that the RSN model is in decline.
For years, live sports have been considered “DVR-proof”, making them attractive destinations for advertisers and leading to many sports teams signing lucrative long-term contracts with networks. premises to broadcast their games. This model has become a major factor in the professional sports business. But with more and more people getting rid of cable, the cord-cutting trend has started to eat away at that revenue. The NFL, in which all games are broadcast via national networks and there are no local television contracts, has been largely isolated from it.
Sinclair’s subsidiary Diamond Sports Group, which owns the rights to more than half of baseball’s teams, is in danger of bankruptcy, the Sports Business Journal reported last fall.
And while Sinclair has discussed launching his own streaming service for local games, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred indicated in October that MLB would prefer to launch its own service and said Sinclair did not have enough rights to have its own service. The league already offers a service called MLB.tv that lets fans watch out-of-market games, but that service blocks the team’s broadcasts in the user’s home market.
the New York Post reported in October that MLB was indeed in talks to “launch a nationwide video streaming service that would allow fans to watch their team’s games,” with other leagues potentially joining in the effort. .
However, there have been no reports since then of the league’s plans for such a service, and it’s possible the idea was leaked as a type of leverage in negotiations with existing RSNs.
On Monday, Front Office Sports reported that Sinclair was close to reaching a deal with the NBA to broadcast league games on a new streaming service that would allow cord cutters to watch local NBA broadcasts. The report also says Sinclair has secured separate new funding of $600 million to “support the expansion”, adding that the Diamond Sports Group currently holds $8.1 billion in debt. This new service would be rolled out in the first half of this year, according to the report. Sinclair has already reached a similar agreement with the National Hockey League.
Stephen Silver, technology editor for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who also contributes to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and connect today. Co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.