MLB’s new deal with Apple presents a problem for some Red Sox fans
It’s getting harder for Boston Red Sox fans to watch games. While we’re waiting for Major League Baseball to lift the lockout that has delayed training camp and threatens to cancel a portion of the upcoming season, the league has gone out of its way to present a new obstacle.
According to John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal, MLB has made a deal with Apple that includes a weekly “Friday Night Baseball” doubleheader on Apple TV+.
These games are exclusive to Apple TV+, which means they will not be broadcast on regional sports networks. In other words, when the Red Sox play in one of these Friday night games, you can’t watch it on NESN.
It’s unclear at this time how many Red Sox games will be streamed on Apple TV+ this season but as a large market club with a passionate fan base, Boston is no stranger to the national TV spotlight. After their surprising run to the ALCS last season, we can expect Apple will want to put some Red Sox games on their schedule. A rivalry game against the Yankees is essentially a lock and the Red Sox are currently scheduled to face the Bronx Bombers on a Friday night four times this season.
While we should be accustomed to games being occasionally excluded from the NESN schedule, this deal with Apple feels different. Games broadcast nationally on ESPN or FOX are typically accessible to most fans with the same cable package they would need to watch NESN.
Fans looking to cut the cord in favor of streaming services have found it increasingly difficult with popular options such as YouTube and Hulu removing NESN from their packages in recent years. Fubo currently carries NESN but they also include the channels that broadcast the nationally televised games. Regardless of if you had cable of Fubo, fans didn’t have to miss the select games that were shown on another network instead of NESN.
Until now. MLB is going to start forcing fans to sign up for an Apple TV+ subscription if they want to see every game. It might only be a game or two this season but their plan has the potential to expand. Perhaps Apple will gain control of games beyond Friday nights in the future. MLB is also negotiating with Peacock on another package of streamed games.
How many different platforms are we going to have to pay for in order to make it through the season? MLB has drawn criticism in the past for blacking out games on MLB.tv in the club’s home market. The league’s own network prevents you from watching Red Sox games if you live in an area that interferes with NESN territory. Now they are telling us that paying for a service that includes our team’s RSN isn’t enough to watch every game.
MLB claims they made this deal to prioritize reaching the next generation of fans. Apparently they believe that the rising popularity of Apple TV+ will bring in younger fans who will find the game more accessible through one of their favorite streaming platforms. In doing so, they alienate existing fans who don’t have access to that service. As difficult as it may be for the billionaire owners to believe, not everyone can afford to subscribe to every available streaming service. If your goal is to reach as many fans as possible, making a deal to broadcast certain games exclusively on a platform that many fans don’t have access to sounds counterproductive.
This is the latest example of MLB tripping over themselves to chase a pile of money at the expense of their fans. Meanwhile, owners are still crying poverty in a feeble attempt to explain why they can’t share more of their rising revenues with the players.