Cubs: MLB streaming deal with Apple makes games even harder to watch

(Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
(Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) /

MLB is continuing to dip its toes in the streaming waters, this time partnering with Apple to bring select games exclusively to the tech giant’s streaming platform Apple TV+. For Chicago Cubs fans with a subscription, that’s bad news – and adds another layer to the difficulties that have arisen for many since the launch of Marquee Network.

The deal also includes a new highlights program called MLB Big Inning which will air every weeknight, wrapping up the happenings of that day in baseball. All told, it felt like an inevitability that the deep-pocketed streaming giant would aim for an exclusive piece of the baseball pie.

The word “exclusive” is the operative term here. Anyone not shelling out for Apple’s ever-growing streaming platform is inevitably going to lose games throughout the season. It won’t be much at least, with two marquee Friday night matchups per week coming to the platform, but it’ll likely be some of the best games. Cubs and Cardinals? Probably a prime candidate, especially if they’re competing for postseason spots.

MLB’s deal with Apple further complicates things for Cubs, baseball fans

What’s worrying about this deal is the mindset MLB (and streaming companies) seem to be approaching this with. Dividing games up among a variety of platforms sucks, especially with the backdrop of MLB.TV’s blackout rules that already make it needlessly difficult to follow the team you love. This feels like an extra hoop to jump through.

For the overall health of the game, it’s not a terrible plan. The deal shouldn’t be catering to baseball fans, but rather a new, streaming-fluent crowd with a passing interest. A diehard fan isn’t going to be satisfied by a couple of games every Friday night and some highlights, but for users casually browsing with a passing interest in baseball, it’s a gateway into the sport without investing in MLB.TV. Still, they didn’t need exclusivity to give casual fans a taste of baseball.

This is without considering that this all was announced in the midst of an ongoing owner-instituted lockout. It’s not a good look to hear Rob Manfred and the owners lament a lack of profitability in the league only to ink a massive deal that likely cost Apple a pretty penny for exclusive streaming rights. Reportedly, the deal only came to light because of Apple’s recent showcase, meaning owners really didn’t want any evidence of baseball’s value out in the open.

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Apple’s MLB deal is not a terrible plan in theory. Anything that gets the game in front of more eyes and acts as an introduction to America’s pastime is a good step forward. The exclusivity sours the deal though, subtracting games from fans for the sake of raking in subscribers for Apple all while leaving a bad taste in fans’ mouths thanks to a lockout based on cash. There are sure to be some frustrating Fridays ahead for Cubs fans.