Apple’s potential bid for MLB’s weekday package could bring a big new player into live sports

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  • MLB and Apple are in talks to live stream regular-season games during the week.
  • Should Apple make the deal, it will be the company’s first foray into broadcasting live sports.
  • Amazon has already become a formidable player in the market, especially with “Thursday Night Football.”

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Now that Amazon has established itself in live sports, most recently through a $1 billion deal to air “Thursday Night Football,” Apple is trying to jump into the game.

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Apple is in talks with Major League Baseball to acquire the rights to its weekday package, according to people with knowledge of the deal, who asked not to be named because the discussions are confidential. An agreement will, for the first time, align the most valuable US tech company with a pro sports media package and give Apple a major content boost for its streaming service, Apple TV+.

MLB’s weekday package allows the network or streaming service to show baseball games on Mondays and Wednesdays during the regular season. MLB and Apple declined to comment on a potential deal, which was first reported on Monday New York Post,

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The rights are not exclusive, as games can still be broadcast on the Regional Sports Network (RSN) for the teams that are playing. Still, it’s an important entry point for Apple, said CEO Lee Burke. LHB Sports, which advises the sports entertainment industry.

Apple is using its nearly $3 trillion market cap and $191 billion in cash and equivalents to grow its business beyond iPhones, computers, watches, and the App Store. The company introduced Apple TV+ in 2019 as a $5 per month subscription service that would run on all major streaming platforms and compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon for original content.

“When you want to develop a content strategy on any media platform, the fastest way to do it, and one that is expensive anyway, is to add sports,” Burke said.

For MLB, finding new revenue sources in the off-season is crucial as the league struggles with its ninth labor stoppage in history. MLB owners laid off players in December as parties spar over how the economics resulting from the game should be shared.

Media rights represent an increasingly lucrative source for the league, but MLB has to be creative in maximizing revenue.

In January 2021, MLB was in the midst of a contract renewal with ESPN, following a deal that paid the league $5.6 billion over eight years and included exclusive games on Sunday nights as well as midweek rights. The games were semi-exclusive, as they were also shown on RSN.

Analysts at the Octagon used 108 of MLB’s 114 games from the 2018 to 2020 season, not including ESPN 2 broadcasts, to determine the average viewership on the Monday-Wednesday package on ESPN. They got an average viewership of 761,434 in 2018, which went up to around 632,000 in 2019 and 358,947 in 2020.

In May, the two sides agreed to produce weekday games, which reportedly reduced ESPN’s fee from $700 million a year to a year. Reported $550 million annually. new deal in progress through 2028, And ESPN has exclusive rights to “Sunday Night Baseball,” the Home Run Derby and MLB Playoff wild card games.

While the difference between ESPN’s old deal and the new fee is $150 million per year, industry experts suggested that MLB sought $350 million per year for weekday rights.

Daniel Cohen, senior vice president of the Octagon’s global media rights consulting division, said a traditional media company would be unlikely to meet MLB’s asking price. And Turner Sports will add its own weekday sports tuesday night As part of his new $3.2 billion package, which pays MLB $470 million per year, that’s more than $325 million.

But Burke said a cash-rich tech company like Apple would “absolutely” pay for it.

“Apple has the money to buy a variety of games in addition to the MLB package,” Burke said. “But to demonstrate that they can do it properly, they have to work their way up the ladder.”

Apple new radio?

Burke compared Apple’s situation to a situation another company faced a century earlier.

In the early 1920s, electronics manufacturer RCA made radio sets. The company then bought the radio stations and, in 1926Formed the National Broadcasting Company. NBC agreed with MLB to broadcast the first World Series over radio. (NBCUniversal is now the parent of NBC and CNBC.)

“RCA was trying to sell radio sets, and Apple is trying to sell headsets,” Burke said. “The same principle applies.”

He added that Apple has an entire ecosystem that it can present to consumers.

“If you’re Apple, you need to get in on the game,” Burke said. “If Apple wants to increase use of Apple TV+ but sell additional hardware — phones, watches, iPads — the game gives you a ready-made mass audience.”

The pandemic changed media consumption, making the deal between MLB and Apple more attractive to both parties.

MLB finds young people glued to their devices even more so for content by staying at home. And with RSN in financial jeopardy as consumers cut the cord, the league needs alternatives to Linear TV.

“You’re getting in front of your next generation of fans, which is absolutely vital to every effort you’re making,” Burke said. “Games have to be on those screens for new fans to appear.”

After building its technology to handle a massive amount of simulcasting and livestreaming of “Thursday Night” games, Amazon lured a $1 billion per year NFL package in March 2021. Now the company is trying to get lead NFL analyst Troy Ekman to join in. Production staff from Fox.

Amazon in 2019 shares purchased of the YES network, which broadcasts New York Yankees games, and streams regular-season competitions. It has an agreement with the Women’s National Basketball Federation. around your in-season tournament, an idea the NBA wants to adopt, as well Tennis Streaming Rights.

“Step by step, they’ve built a huge portfolio in sports not only in the US but around the world,” Burke said. “It’s a multi-year process to demonstrate that you have the chops at a professional level in terms of production, sales, distribution that is mess free.”

Apple and MLB have some history together, dating back to 2008 when the league debuted its iPhone app. Two years later, Apple asked MLB to help with the launch of the iPad.

Should Apple now acquire the MLB rights and prove it can compete with Amazon in attracting users with live sports, more opportunities may open up.

“If you’re interested in bidding for the NBA, I think it helps if you have a track record of it in the game,” Burke said.

Watch: Here’s how sports teams are changing Covid protocols amid outbreaks


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