The New York Yankees are in Boston for a three-game run, but this edition of the teams’ fierce rivalry is on the line differently than usual.
Instead of win-loss records or the playoff race, the main focus this time around will be whether Yankee slugger Aaron Judge sets a new American League record for home runs. And much to the dismay of media viewers and many Yankee fans, tonight’s series opener will only be available on Apple TV+, not on the YES Network or anywhere else on the linear TV watch face.
Apple and Major League Baseball announced a multi-year deal last March for Baseball on Friday night, with the tech giant reportedly paying $85 million per season for exclusive rights to stream the weekly showcase. Unlike the norm for Prime Video, Peacock, ESPN+ or other sports streamers, Apple doesn’t require viewers to pay to watch the games, as they would Ted Lasso or the other original programming. But the free pass won’t stop Yankee fans from flooding local sports radio and social media with their complaints about not being able to watch history on traditional TV.
With 60 home runs to date, Judge is in the company of two legendary Yankees. He is on par with Babe Ruth’s 1927 tall and one behind American League record holder Roger Maris, the latter established when MLB teams played 154 games and the latter in 1961 after the league expanded to 162. Judge’s interest home run chase has transcended the New York market in recent weeks, recalling the frenzy in 1998 when Mark Maguire and Sammy Sosa fought a battle for centuries. That game in the National League, of course, ended with a big star after both players later admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs.
While regional sports networks are under pressure, YES ratings have soared during this exciting season for Judge and the leading Yankees. The previously TBEN-run network, now managed by the team along with Amazon, Sinclair Broadcast Group and private equity investors, has been in talks with Apple about a potential trade that would allow it to air tonight’s game. In one scenario, they even sent lead play-by-play announcer Michael Kay to the Apple booth to sign his “See ya!” call in the case of Home Run No. 61 or 62. Due to its commitment to increasing its presence in live sports and sensing the opportunity to use Judge as a lure for new viewers, Apple was unwilling to budge.
YES does have rights to Saturday’s game, which could see the record, though ESPN has exclusive rights to Sunday’s series finale. If the chase continues over the weekend, rival networks are contractually allowed to do live look-ins to show Judge’s at bats as they take place, but the Apple deal rules out such a move tonight.
Apple’s announcers for the Yankees-Red Sox game are Stephen Nelson, Hunter Pence and Katie Nolan. Along with Apple’s other stand trio – Melanie Newman, Hannah Keyser and Chris Young – this season has been criticized by viewers and some media types. Their selection by Apple reflected ambitions different from Amazon’s in the NFL, which focused on attempting to replicate the traditional TV broadcast model with great talent both in front of and behind the camera.
While the Yankees-Red Sox game will not be shown on linear TV in the Bronx, it will be streamable not only in the US, but also in the UK, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico and South Korea. to the company’s global strategy. Friday night games have also provided Apple viewers with a more stable diet of stats than most broadcast TV, along with high-definition cameras it deems “cinematic” and unorthodox commentary. Nolan, who became known for her comedic personality in previous stints at ESPN and NBC, told Sports Illustrated’s Jimmy Traina on a podcast last spring that she “paniced” during an April broadcast and fell silent because she was scared “after one shift to be fired”. on the new job. “I’m actually learning how to be pigeonholed while being pigeonholed,” she added.
One person with knowledge of the tangle between the media partners and MLB has called the situation “Apple’s worst nightmare” as it could scare potential viewers into the kind of game that has great appeal to casual fans.
“There is an overflowing consumer frustration as more and more sports shift to streaming,” producer and former TV network director Evan Shapiro told TBEN in an interview. “We are going to reach a breaking point.”
It’s not the first time Yankees fans have had to brush up on streaming basics to keep up with the game. (The sports world’s migration to the cloud is so fledgling that the MLB network actually showed step-by-step instructions to viewers who wanted to sign up for Apple TV+.) Amazon’s financial investment in YES brought it 21 exclusives over the course of this year. broadcasts by season, and there has been ongoing grumbling about the level of consumer marketing the tech giant has put into that effort compared to its overall blitz for the NFL.
Apple has similarly taken a “build it and they will come” approach, in the opinion of many observers. Unlike Amazon, whose Prime subscription, Fire TV devices, and other touchpoints provide a number of ways to reach viewers, Apple has a single-digit share of the connected TV market through its Apple TV devices, and Apple TV+ remains a smaller scale. player at the best subscription streaming outlets. While no ratings have been released by Amazon or Apple for baseball, the understanding among stakeholders is that audiences are likely to be a fraction of what YES is bringing in, which was 600,000 total viewers earlier this week, peaking at 756,000, for a series against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Judge jam has even caught the attention of the New York Attorney General letitia James, who just two days after filing a blockbuster lawsuit against… Donald Trump and his family and company.
“To deny millions of New Yorkers and fans across the country the opportunity to watch Aaron Judge step on the board is wrong and unfair,” she said in a statement. “New Yorkers paid their cable bills expecting to see live sports programming. … I call on Apple and the MLB to reach a fair deal with the YES Network so fans can watch what we all hope will make history tonight. ”