Weekly Column: How Important is the AppleTV+ MLB deal for Sports, Tech, and Streaming?

In his capacity as a Columnist for California Sports Lawyer®, Founder Jeremy Evans has written a column about Apple and Major League Baseball (MLB) entering into a deal to have AppleTV+ stream Friday night doubleheaders and complementary content.    

You can read the full column below.

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Apple, the first company in the history of the world to reach $3 trillion in market cap, is now a live sports streamer pursuant to its AppleTV+ subscription platform and its deal with Major League Baseball (MLB) for Friday Night Doubleheaders with additional sports related content and commentary shows. It is not only Apple’s first purchase of live sports rights, it is also the first major non-original program acquisition since the platform launched in November of 2019. Arguably, Apple’s entertainment originals have been hits, Ted Lasso, The Morning Show, and more, but a sustainable, big market, library of assets on the streaming platform, not so much.

It was not too long ago that this author recommended that Apple purchase the Mad Men series when it was looking for a streaming distributor. Apple needs content to grow to compete. With 40+ million current subscribers to AppleTV+, but 530+ million subscribers to its music and other services, there is room for growth. Netflix and Amazon are the current streaming leaders with 200+ million subscribers and growing.

The advantage that Apple has is that it is a tech, computer, and mobile phone company to begin with that offers services as a major part of its business. Apple, like Amazon, has a built-in customer base by having a diversified company. With more and more people watching content on multiple screens beyond a flat screen television, Apple is in a prime position to compete. MLB and Apple already have multiple activations together with the At Bat and MLB applications, but also seamless technology in baseball stadiums across the country.

Apple also has the distinct advantage of beating HBO Max and Netflix to the punch on purchasing live sports rights. Apple also has the advantage of having $200 billion in cash and marketable securities on hand to make acquisitions—like the one it just made with Major League Baseball, which is likely in the $1-3 billion dollar range, depending on the length of the deal. As the financial terms had not been reported by the writing of this column, it could also be closer to the $500+ million ESPN paid for a limited amount of MLB games. Moreover, with athletes and former athletes continuing their push in entertainment content production with stories they want to tell, and MLB live sports rights in tow, Apple now seems like an even tastier outlet to those looking for production and distribution partners.

Apple could also stand to benefit from the massive increase in sports betting across the country. Whether that means integration or just being the platform to watch games where sportsbooks take in bets on Friday evenings, Apple will benefit by increased viewership because sports betting increases eyeballs and engagement. Of course, there may be some scaling back and market correction or normalization for sports betting considering recent reports of impropriety and limited sports betting licenses for businesses. However, where half of the states in the Union have passed sports betting legislation post-Murphy v. NCAA, the other half may keep the proverbial train moving.

Apple’s deal with Major League Baseball does more than signal a bright future for the Cupertino, California-based company. The deal marks a major shift in entertainment streamers getting into the market for very expensive live sports rights. Amazon was a first adopter as a standalone streamer not tied to a network or broadcast like NBC/Peacock or Disney/ESPN. Apple now continues the march to streaming more live sports content, which is one of the last moneymakers for traditional broadcasters. Can the two live side-by-side, streamers and broadcasters, possibly, as long as sports leagues continue to split rights for sale among different outlets and customers retain their cable packages.

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About Jeremy M. Evans:  

Jeremy M. Evans is the Chief Entrepreneur Officer, Founder & Managing Attorney at California Sports Lawyer®, representing entertainment, media, and sports clientele in contractual, intellectual property, and dealmaking matters. Evans is an award-winning attorney and industry leader based in Los Angeles. He can be reached at Jeremy@CSLlegal.com. www.CSLlegal.com.

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Jeremy M. Evans is the CEO, Founder & Managing Attorney at California Sports Lawyer®, representing entertainment, media, and sports clientele and is licensed to practice law in California.