Friday Night Baseball
GenreMLB game broadcasts
StarringSee § Commentators
No. of seasons2
Production
Running time3 hours per game (approximate)
Production companyMLB Network
Original release
NetworkApple TV+
ReleaseApril 8, 2022 (2022-04-08) –
present

Friday Night Baseball is a live broadcast of Major League Baseball (MLB) games on Apple TV+ that debuted during the league's 2022 season. The weekly broadcast is produced by MLB Network,[1] featuring a doubleheader with pregame and postgame analysis.[2] The broadcast is available in the North American market consisting of the United States, Canada and Mexico as well as select overseas markets including Australia, Brazil, Japan, South Korea, Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom, with plans to expand availability of the broadcast to more regions in the future.[2]

History

Apple Inc. signed a seven-year deal with MLB for the broadcast for US$85 million per year, a total value of $595 million. This includes an annual $55 million rights fee as well as $30 million for Apple advertising. Apple has the right to exit the agreement after the first or second year.[3] The deal was the first sports broadcasting contract ever acquired by Apple.[4] Plans for the broadcast were formally announced on March 8, 2022, at Apple's Peek Performance event and later in an online press release.[5][6]

The first broadcast date was initially made uncertain as the deal was signed amidst the 2021–22 MLB lockout and the threat of cancelled games.[7] After the lockout was resolved, MLB announced that the first games would air on April 8, 2022, with a doubleheader of New York MetsWashington Nationals and Houston AstrosLos Angeles Angels as the inaugural matchups.[8] Apple also announced that Friday Night Baseball will be free-of-charge for its first 12 weeks of broadcasts, although this was later extended for the rest of the inaugural season.[9]

On April 7, 2022, Apple announced that Melanie Newman, Chris Young, Hannah Keyser, and Brooke Fletcher would be the inaugural broadcast crew for east coast games, while Stephen Nelson, Hunter Pence, Katie Nolan, and Heidi Watney would be the broadcast crew for west coast games. Lauren Gardner was announced as the pregame and postgame studio host, along with a rotation of MLB Network studio analysts including Carlos Peña, Cliff Floyd, and Yonder Alonso. Former MLB umpire Brian Gorman was also hired as a rules analyst.[10]

On September 23, 2022, St. Louis Cardinals designated hitter Albert Pujols hit the 700th home run of his career during a Friday Night Baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.[11]

With the announcement of the Friday Night Baseball schedule for the first half of the 2023 MLB season, Apple announced that they had signed a deal with DirecTV to distribute Friday Night Baseball to their commercial subscribers, ensuring availability to venues (such as bars and restaurants) that were not readily equipped to handle streaming-only broadcasts. DirecTV had previously signed similar deals with Amazon Prime Video for their Thursday Night Football broadcasts, as well as with Apple for MLS Season Pass broadcasts. Apple also announced that they would add alternative audio feeds allowing viewers in the United States and Canada to listen to local radio broadcasts from the home team or the away team instead of the regular audio feed.[12] It was also announced that, unlike the inaugural season, an Apple TV+ subscription would now be required to watch Friday Night Baseball.[13]

Commentators

Current

Broadcasters

Studio analysts

Former

Reception

The initial Friday Night Baseball broadcasts were met with mixed reviews that largely praised its visual production, but criticized its commentary crew's performance. Many fans objected to the games being unavailable on cable television networks and to the need for additional hardware to watch Friday Night Baseball on their televisions.[14]

Six Colors praised its "special" production which "push[ed] the envelope", noting that the production featured more cameras than a typical broadcast, and more commentators, which he compared to the higher production fare often reserved for ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts, or postseason games, which are produced by other broadcasters such as Fox Sports. The Six Colors review praised the diversity of the commentary crew, while criticizing the volume of commercials (including product placement) and the lack of a rewind feature in the Apple TV+ app.[15] A writer for The Verge said that the debut broadcast "left some fans frustrated and disappointed", upset with streaming issues and poor commentary quality. Some fans found the commentary to be "distracting, and sometimes blatantly off-topic".[16]

WFAN hosts Gregg Giannotti and Boomer Esiason, during their radio show Boomer and Gio, were more negative about the initial broadcast. Giannotti said, "They don't think the game stands on its own. They were talking about a lot of things that have nothing to do with the game … they're putting people in there that don't have any experience". Esiason said that the broadcast was "unlistenable", but that he expects improvements in the future.[17]

Apple Insider noted that while many praised the debut broadcast's minimalist score bug, some viewers mocked it, and noted that the commentary team wandered off-topic and seemed to have a "lack of enthusiasm for on-field events".[18] TechRadar wrote that viewers found that commentators didn't appear to understand the importance of the plays during the game. The outlet also praised the production technology used, noting that it utilized a Sony α7R IV, DJI Ronin-S, Phantom Camera, and a 1080p wireless transmitter allowing the game to be viewed at 60 frames per second, and that its use of narrow focus for some of the camera angles "creates a recognizable cinematic effect … that instantly raises the drama."[19]

Before the September 23 Yankees/Red Sox broadcast, where Aaron Judge of the Yankees would be attempting to tie an American League record with 61 home runs, New York State attorney general Letitia James urged Major League Baseball to allow the game to simulcast on the YES Network. The network is widely available on cable providers in New York State, which would have allowed the game to be more widely televised. Major League Baseball denied this request, and the game aired exclusively on Apple TV+ as planned. James was also criticized for advocating for a game that was made available to stream for free to also be made available on pay-TV services, when Amazon (who owns a stake in YES Network) were locking some Yankees games behind their Prime Video service in the team’s home market (Amazon would eventually allow the last game in their package that season to be simulcasted on YES Network).[20][21][22]

References

  1. ^ Lucia, Joe (April 6, 2022). "Your 2022 MLB regular season broadcasting primer". Awful Announcing.
  2. ^ a b "Apple, MLB announce 'Friday Night Baseball' package". ESPN. 8 March 2022. Retrieved 8 March 2022.
  3. ^ Ozanian, Mike (9 March 2022). "MLB Deals With Apple And NBC Sports Are Worth A Combined $115 Million Annually". Forbes. Retrieved 11 March 2022.
  4. ^ Axson, Scooby (8 March 2022). "Apple signs its first sports rights deal, teaming up with MLB for 'Friday Night Baseball'". USA Today. Retrieved 8 March 2022.
  5. ^ "Apple and Major League Baseball to offer "Friday Night Baseball"". Apple Newsroom. Apple Inc. Retrieved 8 March 2022.
  6. ^ Keck, Catie (8 March 2022). "Apple TV Plus announces Friday Night Baseball". The Verge. Retrieved 8 March 2022.
  7. ^ Goldsmith, Jill (8 March 2022). "Apple In Rights Deal With MLB For 'Friday Night Baseball'". Deadline. Retrieved 8 March 2022.
  8. ^ "Friday night games free on Apple TV+". MLB.com. Retrieved 2022-03-29.
  9. ^ Cross, Jason (29 March 2022). "Friday Night Baseball on Apple TV+ will be free for the first 12 weeks of the season". Macworld. Retrieved 5 April 2022.
  10. ^ "Apple introduces broadcasters and production details for "Friday Night Baseball," beginning April 8 only on Apple TV+". apple.com. Retrieved 2022-04-07.
  11. ^ "Cardinals fans miss Albert Pujols' 700th home run due to game broadcast on Apple TV+". Sports Business Journal. Leaders Group. September 26, 2022. Retrieved February 25, 2023.
  12. ^ "Friday Night Baseball" resumes on Apple TV+ on April 7". Apple Newsroom. 2023-03-22. Retrieved 2023-03-22.
  13. ^ "Apple will require a subscription to watch 'Friday Night Baseball' this year". CNBC. 2023-03-22. Retrieved 2023-03-22.
  14. ^ "Baseball on Apple TV Plus slaughtered by furious fans on opening night". 9 April 2022.
  15. ^ "First impressions of Apple's "Friday Night Baseball"". Six Colors. 2022-04-11. Retrieved 2022-05-28.
  16. ^ Roth, Emma (2022-04-09). "Apple TV Plus' Friday Night Baseball debut wasn't the homerun fans expected". The Verge. Retrieved 2022-05-28.
  17. ^ "Boomer Esiason found Apple TV+'s Friday Night Baseball "unlistenable"". Awful Announcing. 2022-04-11. Retrieved 2022-05-28.
  18. ^ "Fans slam Apple TV+ 'Friday Night Baseball' stream outages, commentary team". AppleInsider. Retrieved 2022-05-28.
  19. ^ Ulanoff, Lance (2022-04-15). "Apple TV Plus Friday Night Baseball curveball start could still lead to a home run". TechRadar. Retrieved 2022-05-28.
  20. ^ "New York's attorney general fighting to make Yankees game more available". wnyt.com. 2022-09-23. Retrieved 2022-09-23.
  21. ^ Peters, Jay (2022-09-23). "NY AG tries to explain how Apple's free Yankees stream is worse than cable TV". The Verge. Retrieved 2022-11-20.
  22. ^ Clark, Mitchell (2022-09-29). "Amazon says YES to putting the Yankees on cable". The Verge. Retrieved 2022-11-20.