Apple and Amazon are in a race to broadcast live sports


People who love sports and hate technology might want to sit down for this one because your worst nightmares are coming true:

Select MLB and NFL games will only be available to stream for the 2022 season and beyond.

To keep tabs on your top teams, you’ll need to donate Apple and Amazon subscription dollars, own a device which is compatible with their streaming services, and pray (whatever deity you worship) that your home internet connection lasts three and a half hours.

If that sounds scary to you, we understand. Gone are the days of wiggling bunny ears over the nice old square TV to get a clearer picture. But if you just let us explain what’s going on in live sports and why, you’ll be ready for this new streaming world order.

Wait, I can’t watch my team on TV anymore?

Thursday Night Football will no longer be on the NFL Network.
Credit: Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The good news is that, for now, your viewing habits won’t have to change that much. If you watch sports on cable, it will still work. It just won’t work for all game once baseball season starts in April and football season starts in September.

When the 2022 NFL season kicks off this fall, Thursday night football games will be broadcast exclusively on Amazon’s Prime Video app. It’s an 11-year deal between Amazon and the NFL that sees the Bezos empire shell out $1 billion a year for the privilege of showing just 15 regular season games per season. Thursday Night Football has been simulcast on Fox, NFL Network, and Prime Video since 2017, so the infrastructure is there. Now it’s just an Amazon exclusive.

As for baseball, the American pastime, you’ll have to turn to the streaming home of Ted Lasso. Starting in April, two MLB games will be broadcast every Friday night exclusively on Apple TV+. Apple would have paid $85 million for the rights to just two games a week. MLB’s media device will produce the broadcasts, so all Apple has to do is make sure the stream is working. Apple TV+ has yet to be used to broadcast live events of this magnitude, so it remains to be seen how the quality and performance of the broadcast will compare to regular TV.

Apple and Amazon are also considered favorites to secure the rights to NFL Sunday Ticket, according to the Sports Business Journal. It’s a nifty little package run by DirecTV (with rights expiring after the 2022 season) that lets you stream any NFL game on Sundays except those in the market you live in. very handy for, say, a Kansas City Chiefs fan living in New York, but it also costs $300 a year if you live in an area without DirecTV service, and is otherwise part of satellite packages that cost $80/month or more. Hopefully Apple or Amazon can find a way to reduce that number.

Why is this happening now?

Apple TV 4K

Apple wants it to be more than just a “Ted Lasso” box.
Credit: Neil Godwin/Edge Magazine/Future via Getty Images)

Simply put, it’s a sign of the times. According to Research bench. It’s no secret that streaming is cheaper and more convenient. Even the most basic cable package is more expensive than Netflix’s most expensive tier, and only 39% of Americans said they preferred live TV over on-demand content in a 2018 Hub Entertainment Research study. as reported by Deadline. However, sport is not really consumed in the same way as stranger things. There’s just not much juice in watching a game on demand hours or even days after the outcome has been decided.

Dan Ives, an analyst with market research firm Wedbush, said Apple and Amazon are getting into sports because it’s the most important thing in media that they’re not doing. again control.

“Sport really is the goose that lays the golden egg,” Ives said. “Amazon and Apple are in a unique position because of their stacks of cash, which…give them the ability to bid on live sports content, which will ultimately be the magnet to attract more and more subscribers.”

“Sport really is the goose that lays the golden egg.”

information reported that Apple TV+ only had around 20 million paying subscribers last year, which is tiny compared to Netflix’s 222 million. Adding baseball and football would almost certainly increase that number. The same could be said for Amazon’s Prime subscription, which crossed the threshold of 200 million members Last year. This number of subscriptions is staggering, but obviously Amazon will always want more people to pay for Prime.

It’s reasonable for these companies to think that live sports will drive new streaming subscriptions. Even with the caveat that Thursday Night Football is generally considered by fans to be one of the least important games each week (because teams only play a few days off), it still draws a large following – a Thursday game reached 20 million viewers Last year. Baseball is harder to plot because a large majority of games aren’t nationally broadcast (and there’s no pre-existing national double-header on Friday nights), but for context, the World Series from last year 11.7 million viewers on average in six games.

Could this make life harder (or easier) for sports fans?

Kamala Harris

Improving rural internet access has been a talking point for the Biden administration, and it would greatly help rural sports fans moving forward.
Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

If all of this sounds ominous, don’t worry too much. These sports leagues negotiate TV rights deals that last decades, so the way it works now is the way it will work for many years to come. For example, the current NFL arrangement short until 2033.

Still, there are opportunities to visualize the downside with what Eric Schmitt, an analyst at market research firm Gartner, calls the “streaming” of sports right now. Most obvious is the lack of reliable home internet in rural areas. Last year the The Biden administration said 30 million Americans lived in places with unacceptable broadband infrastructure.

“It seems…potentially to further deprive those of us who don’t have reliable broadband access because of where we live or our economic circumstances,” Schmitt said.

And while many of our dear seniors can get by with modern technology, it’s no secret that older people tend to acclimate poorly to these kinds of changes. Apple getting into bed with baseball to begin its streaming journey is fascinating as the sport has the oldest audience of any major team sport. Sports Business Journal estimated the median baseball viewership was 57 in 2016. Obviously, six years have passed since then, so baseball viewership isn’t getting any younger.


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The biggest potential benefit of sports streamlining is simply more user-friendly pricing. Apple TV+ probably won’t just cost $5/month forever, but it almost certainly won’t cost north of $100/month like a premium cable subscription currently does.

Despite the cost savings, the gradual shift of live sports from traditional TV to streaming is a great example of how the march of technological progress isn’t always a universal good thing. Fans will inevitably be shut out of sports as they are increasingly locked behind streaming platforms. On the other hand, this presents an opportunity as new fans could consist of people lazily scrolling through Prime Video on a Thursday night.

But whether this decision makes our favorite teams more or less accessible, we can all agree on at least one thing: streams work better.


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