As Major League Baseball Sets Return, Here’s What’s Changed on the Streaming Front
After a nearly three-month lockout upended Major League Baseball’s offseason and Spring Training, on Thursday, the league’s owners and Players Association agreed on a new collective bargaining agreement that will end the work stoppage and get players back in uniform in time to start the season on April 7. The agreement restores the season to its traditional 162 games, despite the fact that the league had previously announced the cancelation of the first four series of the season.
This decision will obviously necessitate a change in the season schedule, but that is not the only thing that will be different as baseball gets underway in 2022. From a streaming standpoint, fans will have a whole host of opportunities to watch games in addition to the traditional broadcast and mlb.tv options.
Apple TV+ Gets ‘Friday Night Baseball,’ More
Earlier this week, it was officially announced that Apple TV+ would be making its first foray into the world of live sports as it will exclusively broadcast two Major League games on Friday nights throughout the season.
In addition to the live, Friday night games, Apple TV+ will also be the streaming home for “MLB Big Inning” a nightly whip-around show that will air every weekday night and provide viewers with highlights, live look-ins, and analysis. The deal between Apple and MLB will also impact Apple products beyond their streaming service. Because of the rights agreement, Apple will be able to include highlights and streams across all of their platforms, including embedding highlights in their newsfeed.
Peacock to Air MLB Games
Also coming this season, Peacock will reportedly be getting into the baseball broadcasting game as well. According to a Forbes report, Comcast will secure rights to broadcast games, with the intention of airing them on their streaming service. Some reports place them at Monday and Wednesday nights, while others say the games will air on Sunday mornings.
These games had previously been broadcast by ESPN, but the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” gave up the rights making them available for the NBCU streamer to acquire. With the late additions of Apple and Peacock, Major League Baseball has added $115 million to their annual broadcast rights deals for the 2022 season in just the last week.
ESPN to Get Expanded Wild Card Coverage
One of the changes made in the new CBA is that the playoff field has been expanded from five to six teams in each league. The postseason participants will include the three division winners and three Wild Card selections from both the American and National Leagues. The top two division winners will receive a bye straight into the Division Series, while the division winner with the lowest winning percentage will join the other three qualifiers in the Wild Card round.
This specific change should prove to be a boon for ESPN as they own the rights to the Wild Card rounds beginning this season. Each of the four Wild Card series will be a best-of-three format, so the network could air as many as 12 postseason games this season. The addition of the Wild Card games was part of ESPN’s new $550 million rights agreement with the league, which saw them give up some mid-week games.
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Bally Sports App Will Stream 5 MLB Teams
Last month, when the MLB season was very much still up in the air, Sinclair Broadcasting Group revealed that their direct-to-consumer (DTC) Bally Sports service would have a “soft launch” this spring in conjunction with the baseball season.
Currently, the Bally Sports App only has in-market streaming rights to the Tigers, Marlins, Brewers, Royals, and Rays.
According to Sinclair’s projections, the app will cost $225 per year, which comes out to $18.75 per month. The service will begin operation with five Major League Baseball teams in Q2 of 2022 before launching wide with all of the NBA and NHL teams for which Sinclair owns the broadcast rights later in the year, presumably with the launch of the basketball and hockey seasons in the fall.