MLB, Apple Reportedly Discussing Broadcasting Rights

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According to a report from the New York Post’s Andrew Marchand, Major League Baseball has recently engaged in “serious” and “substantial” talks with Apple with regard to weeknight broadcasting rights, specifically to the Monday- and Wednesday-night package previously aired by ESPN. Should a deal be reached, Apple would presumably broadcast the games on Apple TV+, the company’s subscription streaming service that competes with Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video, among others. Apple, the world’s most valuable publicly traded company, recently attained a $3 trillion market valuation.

Though the move wouldn’t exactly represent something wholly new for MLB — regular-season games have been carried on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter in recent seasons, and speculation that MLB might seek to sell the games ESPN had dropped has been rampant since the network’s new deal was announced — it would reflect a shifting sports media landscape. Amazon, a direct competitor with Apple in several arenas, recently reached a deal with the NFL to poach Thursday Night Football from Fox to the tune of $1 billion per season, and NBC has made many Premier League soccer matches available exclusively on Peacock, its own streaming service. MLB also operates its own highly successful streaming service, MLB.tv, which logged a record 10 billion minutes of viewership in 2021, per an October press release. Neither Apple nor MLB have yet commented on the reported talks.

Though the size and scope of a potential deal are presently unclear, it’s unlikely the package would approach the $1 billion mark that Amazon agreed to pay the NFL. While the approximately 60 MLB games ESPN has relinquished dwarf the 18 NFL games Amazon will receive, national viewing habits (and consequent broadcast values) differ greatly between the sports. For reference, per Tom Bassam of SportsPro Media, ESPN paid MLB $700MM annually for the right to a 90-game package and from 2022 will pay an annual fee of $550MM to retain Sunday Night Baseball (roughly 30 games) as well as the Little League Classic, the opening night game, the Home Run Derby, and either all Wild Card series games (should the new CBA include a playoff format similar to 2020’s) or one of two Wild Card games and eight additional regular-season games (should the existing playoff format remain in place).

Still, should a deal be reached, it would almost certainly represent a substantial cash infusion for a league presently at a standstill in CBA negotiations that center largely on the share of revenue retained by owners and that paid to players. In any event, should such a deal come to fruition, it’s very unlikely to be the last of its kind.

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