Apple will stream MLB games on Apple TV Plus for the first time

Starting Friday, Apple TV+ will air a weekly doubleheader of MLB games.

For the most part, it will be like watching a ball game on a traditional broadcast network, but with a few added features like the ability to ask Siri for player stats or listen to your favorite player’s batting song on Apple Music. . It’s also free, for now. You don’t need to subscribe to Apple TV+, which costs $4.99 a month, to watch. But it could eventually help Apple sell more iPhones.

Apple’s first significant foray into sports broadcasting underscores its broader strategy with Apple TV+, which by all accounts – including Apple – has far fewer subscribers than the likes of Netflix, Disney+ and HBO Max. . While these services have more shows and movies than you could ever hope to watch in a lifetime, Apple TV+’s library is smaller and more carefully curated by people, not an algorithm.

And while no one at Apple would complain if TV+ racked up Netflix-level subscribers, that’s not the end goal. I spoke with Apple representatives on Thursday who told me their goal was not to dominate market share with services like Apple TV+. Instead, they want to focus on quality. (Of course, you could easily argue that many more people would sign up for Apple TV+ if it was that Well.)

It reminded me of something I wrote two years ago when Apple TV+ was just getting started. Apple TV+ was not designed to take on Netflix. It’s more like classic HBO – a prestige collection of Emmy and Oscar bait, without much filler in between.

Experience is working on that front. Apple won the Best Picture Oscar last month for “CODA” and multiple Emmys for “Ted Lasso,” including Outstanding Comedy Series. Meanwhile, the dystopian workplace drama “Severance” has turned into a sleeper hit this year, with raving reviews and Apple ordering a second season.

Netflix may have big hits like “Stranger Things” and “Squid Game,” but for each of those shows there are dozens of lesser programming options like “The Floor is Lava.” There’s a lot of quality in Netflix, but much of it can get lost in the noise.

Think of Apple TV+ the same way you think of all the extras included with your Amazon Prime membership. Apple doesn’t need to make a huge profit from streaming TV. It just needs it as another weapon in its arsenal for you to buy iPhones and other Apple gadgets. The new addition of live baseball games is a good experiment for Apple to see if it can generate enough interest to expand its sports offerings on Apple TV+ down the line, others like Netflix continue to avoid the live sports programming.

It also explains why Apple is reportedly launching a hardware subscription service for iPhone, which gives you the option of bundling Apple offers like TV+ with a new iPhone each year for a fixed annual or monthly price. It would be a double whammy for Apple. This would allow more customers to update their phones every year (instead of every three or four years) and add more subscribers to its services like TV+, Apple Music and Apple News.

Deutsche Bank analysts saw that same opportunity, saying in a research note on Friday that the potential set of hardware and services would “significantly” increase the number of subscribers to Apple’s digital services. That, in turn, would be a major catalyst for the stock.

This all goes back to the same story we’ve seen unfold at Apple since it began its push into online services several years ago. The iPhone remains the main profit generator, while everything else, from AirPods to Apple TV+, is designed to keep customers locked in and upgrade their devices.

Streaming sport is just another part of this lockdown.

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