The landscape for TV consumption continues to shift in response not only to evolutions in technology and consumer behavior, but also to newer entrants with troves of cash to throw at programming. I kinda can’t believe how much Amazon has spent on a couple seasons each of ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Wheel of Time’ – before either had even aired – but that’s the new normal.
The sports world is not immune from these kinds of titanic shifts. For example, recent word that Sinclair/Bally was nearing a deal to secure direct-to-consumer streaming rights for the NBA games on its regional sports networks, a huge boon to their attempt to create a streaming app for live sports (no cable subscription required). Right now, they have the rights to just four MLB teams, and MLB wants to create its own blackout-free streaming platform in-market. (While bigger-market rightsholders like the Cubs/Marquee may eventually try to forge ahead with their own standalone services.)
That has the potential to be transformative in a way few other developments do. But an entirely new bidder coming onto the market for MLB streaming rights? Like Amazon with its huge project purchases? Yeah, that’d be pretty transformative, too:
NEWS: Apple in serious talks to broadcast Major League Baseball games, The Post has learned. https://t.co/AIhEayYR11
— Andrew Marchand (@AndrewMarchand) January 10, 2022
The article is limited on the details at the moment, other than to say it likely would involve the weekday games that ESPN recently relinquished, and wouldn’t be a billion-dollar-level deal. (I presume the deal would just be as part of the Apple TV+ streaming app, rather than tied directly to Apple’s devices, but I suppose I wouldn’t totally rule out some kind of connection.)
But the mere fact that Apple could get into this market would be huge news for baseball, and sports in general. That’s a cash-loaded entity that is desperate to keep building out its options to beef up its streamer. Live sports are still gonna be (a) king, even in a world where the way we receive those live sports continues to change.
(Also: it isn’t lost on me that this news leaks out during the lockout. A reminder that there’s still plenty of money ahead in the future for the sport? I remember when the huge Turner deal came out in 2020 during the pandemic negotiations, that was used as a public lever by the players to make that very point.)