Apple is making users pay to watch Friday Night Baseball this year. The company announced on Wednesday that only those who subscribe to its $6.99 per month Apple TV Plus subscription can watch the Major League Baseball games, which kick off on April 7th.
When Apple first announced Friday Night Baseball last year, the company let everyone watch the games for free on Apple TV Plus and only required that they sign up for an account. However, Apple did hint that it wouldn’t stream the games for free forever, as an archived version of Apple’s Friday Night Baseball support page notes that “for a limited time, you can watch without a subscription.” This line is now absent from the support page that’s currently live on Apple’s website.
Just like last year, Apple will show two live baseball games every Friday night, starting with the Texas Rangers at the Chicago Cubs along with the San Diego Padres at the Atlanta Braves. The streams will last through June 30th and will be available in 60 countries and regions, an increase from last year’s availability in just 13 locations.
There is a neat new feature coming to Friday Night Baseball this year, and that’s the ability for users in the US and Canada to use the audio from their local broadcasts instead of listening to Apple’s commentators for most home and away games. In the fine print, though, Apple notes that local audio for the Texas Rangers is “available only for the team’s home games,” while “in Canada, radio broadcasts are available only for Toronto Blue Jays games.”
If you do want to catch the streams for free, the only way to do so (besides going to a friend's house) is to watch them at local sports bars or restaurants. Apple also announced a new deal with DirecTV that will bring the streams to over 300,000 bars, hotel lounges, retail shops, and other locations during the season.
The move to make users pay for Friday Night Baseball comes as the service looks to build up Apple TV Plus’ offering of live sports. Last year, the company announced its plans to stream Major League Soccer for the next 10 years, which just started last month. Apple’s charging TV Plus subscribers $12.99 per month, or $79 per season, to watch the games, while anyone who isn’t subscribed can watch them for $14.99 per month, or $99 for the entire season.
Additionally, recent rumors suggest that Apple’s planning to build an advertising network around its MLS offering and reportedly hired advertising executive Lauren Fry to help build an advertising business for the streaming service.