On Tuesday, Apple and MLB officially announced the schedule for the first 12 weeks of Friday Night Baseball doubleheaders exclusive to AppleTV+. Some of these were already known, particularly the opening Friday, April 7 game between the New York Mets and Washington Nationals (possibly Max Scherzer’s return against the Nationals), but a lot of them weren’t. That release also confirms that for at least these 12 weeks, these games won’t require an AppleTV+ subscription; they’ll be free just with internet access. Here’s more from the release:
Apple and Major League Baseball (MLB) today announced the first half of the 2022 “Friday Night Baseball” schedule. These scheduled games are available to anyone with internet access, for free, only on Apple TV+. “Friday Night Baseball” will premiere April 8 with two marquee games: the New York Mets versus the Washington Nationals, live from Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., beginning at 7 p.m. ET, featuring the anticipated Mets debut of three-time Cy Young Award-winner and eight-time All-Star Max Scherzer taking on All-Star Juan Soto and the Nationals; and the Houston Astros versus the Los Angeles Angels, live from Angel Stadium, beginning at 9:30 p.m. ET, featuring three-time American League MVP Mike Trout and reigning American League MVP Shohei Ohtani and the Angels taking on Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman and the defending American League Champion Astros. “Friday Night Baseball,” a weekly doubleheader, will be available to fans in eight countries exclusively on Apple TV+ on Fridays throughout the regular season.
On April 15, MLB will commemorate Jackie Robinson Day, marking the 75th anniversary of the Hall of Famer’s historic Major League debut. On that night, “Friday Night Baseball” will be there to celebrate this special occasion by featuring coverage of reigning American League Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Randy Arozarena and the Tampa Bay Rays visiting All-Star shortstop Tim Anderson and the Chicago White Sox. Robinson’s MLB franchise, the Los Angeles Dodgers, will be featured as 2020 National League MVP Freddie Freeman and his new Dodger teammates host last season’s National League Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Jonathan India and the Cincinnati Reds at Dodger Stadium.
An interesting part of this is the teams featured the most. Five teams are featured three times each in this span: the Chicago White Sox, the Houston Astros, the Los Angeles Angels (star pitcher/DH Shohei Ohtani is seen above hitting a home run last July), the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Tampa Bay Rays. That’s considerably different from what we’ve seen in the past with national broadcasts like ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, often known for emphasizing teams like the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees (even to their complaints), and Chicago Cubs. All three of those teams will appear in this AppleTV+ package as well, but only twice each through this span. (Granted, ESPN’s limited Sunday Night Baseball schedule for this year released to date isn’t super packed with those teams either; their largest recurring team is the Philadelphia Phillies.)
We’ll see how these broadcasts on AppleTV+ do. As noted in our post on the Scherzer game, there isn’t really a financial access barrier here, especially compared to watching games on a regional sports network; with these broadcasts free to anyone with an internet connection without a subscription, and with AppleTV+ available on the vast majority of connected TVs and streaming sticks, the majority of people who would like to watch this game should be able to. And there’s a much wider potential audience for an OTT broadcast like this than there is for RSN broadcasts, which for most RSNs require traditional cable or satellite packages, or expensive streaming package DirecTV Stream; RSN availability on other virtual multichannel programming distributors (vMVPDs) like YouTube TV, Sling TV, and fuboTV remains limited.
But AppleTV+ does come with the hurdle of figuring out streaming on a new service for those who don’t normally do that, plus the hurdle of finding out these games are on AppleTV+ rather than the local RSN in the first place. Many people don’t read about where games are, but just flip on the TV to the RSN. And baseball does tend to have an older audience that may be less familiar with streaming generally and AppleTV+ specifically than a younger audience. So there will certainly be some complaints about this; in fact, we saw a whole bunch of them just when this package was announced. We’ll see how this works out for MLB and Apple.