Is Apple about to blow up the baseball world? According to the New York Post, MLB is in talks to let Apple take over streaming rights for several games.
ESPN recently gave up rights to MLB’s weekday national games. It’s unclear if Apple might be allowed to block any games from broadcast on regional sports networks. Representatives from Apple and MLB have not commented.
Sports rights have been the crown jewel of any TV service, streaming or linear. While Amazon Prime Video scooped up Thursday Night Football and ESPN+ is dominating NHL coverage, the streaming sports landscape is becoming fractured. In 2021, sports made up 95 of the top 100 live broadcasts, with 75 of them being NFL games. Sports are one of the few things that can pull a live audience anymore, putting a premium on the ads that run during the contests.
The trick for any potential deal is that Apple wouldn’t have exclusive streaming rights over the entire league. You can imagine the strength of a service that was the one and only way to view a particular sport. Midweek baseball games aren’t quite the same draw as Sunday NFL contests or the full run of March Madness NCAA games.
The big jewel next up for grabs will be NFL Sunday Ticket. DirecTV is not expected to re-up the rights, which means there could be a mad dash for the package. Whoever scores the rights will become an automatic sports juggernaut, whether that’s Disneys’ ESPN+, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+ or some other player. Apple is rumored to be a player in that race.
This maneuvering takes place against the backdrop of Bally Sports’ big moves, as they look to lock up in-market streaming rights for the NBA. Bally has the streaming rights for four MLB teams, so how that might intersect with Apple’s rumored deal remains to be seen.