As New York Yankees Judge Aaron Judge chases home run record, some fans howl at Apple’s exclusive streaming – Deadline

The New York Yankees will host the Boston Red Sox for a four-game streak, but this edition of fierce team rivalry has a different stakes than usual.

Rather than winning and losing records or the playoff run, the main focus this time around will be whether Yankees slugger Aaron Judge sets an American League record for home runs. And, much to the dismay of media watchers and many Yankee fans, tonight’s series opening will only be available on Apple TV +, not YES Network or anywhere else on the linear TV face.

Apple and Major League Baseball in March announced a multi-year deal for Friday night at baseball, with the tech giant paying $ 85 million a season for exclusive streaming rights to the weekly showcase. Unlike the norm for Prime Video, Peacock, ESPN +, or other sports streamers, Apple doesn’t require viewers to pay to see games like they would to watch them. Ted Lasso or its other original programming. But the free pass doesn’t stop Yankee fans flooding local sports radio and social media with their complaints about not being able to watch the story on traditional TV.

With 60 home runs to date, Judge finds himself in the company of two legendary Yankees. It is related to Babe Ruth’s 1927 count 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 was expanded to 162. The interest in Judge’s home run has transcended the New York market in recent weeks, recalling the frenzy in 1998 when Mark Maguire and Sammy Sosa fought an away battle for centuries. That National League match, of course, ended with a major asterisk after both players later admitted taking performance-enhancing drugs.

While regional sports networks are under stress, ratings on YES have risen during this exciting season for Judge and division leaders Yankees. The previously Fox-operated network – which is now controlled by the team along with Amazon, Sinclair Broadcast Group and private equity investors – has held talks with Apple about a potential exchange that would allow it to air tonight’s game. One scenario even saw them send lead announcer Michael Kay to the Apple booth to deliver his signature “See you!” call in case of home runs n. 61 or 62. Due to his commitment to growing a presence in live sports and perceiving the opportunity to use Judge as bait for new viewers, Apple was unwilling to budget.

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YES has the rights to Saturday’s game, which could see the record set, although ESPN will have the exclusive rights for Sunday’s series finale. If the chase continues into the weekend, rival networks will be contractually allowed to make live visits to show Judge’s lines as they happen, but the deal with Apple precludes such a move tonight, barring last-minute agreements. .

The blockade is reminiscent of previous milestones in sports media, but all occurred within the confines of the cable box. In 2007, after initially planning to show an end-of-season game between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots only on the then-niche NFL Network, the NFL moved it to a national simulcast on NBC and CBS. When ESPN began airing NFL games in the 1980s, it was far from its current scale, a fact noted by the league prior to the Amazon exclusive. Thursday night of football streaming. Plus, sometimes even the best-planned showcases go wrong, as they did in March, when the last much-hyped home game for Duke men’s basketball manager Mike Krzyzewski had to start broadcasting on ESPN2 because a different game lasted. long on ESPN.

Apple announcers for the Yankees-Red Sox game will be Stephen Nelson, Hunter Pence and Katie Nolan. Along with the other trio on the Apple booth – Melanie Newman, Hannah Keyser and Chris Young – they have been the subject of criticism from viewers and some types of media this season. Their selection by Apple signaled ambitions that differ from Amazon’s run of the NFL, which has focused on trying to replicate the traditional TV model of television 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 streamed not only in the United States but also in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Brazil, Japan, Mexico, Puerto Rico and South Korea. global strategy of the company. The Friday night games also offered Apple viewers a steadier diet of stats than most TV broadcasts, along with unorthodox commentary and high-definition cameras that it believes to be “cinematic.” Nolan, who rose to fame for her comedic character in previous stints at ESPN and NBC, said Sports IllustratedJimmy Traina on a podcast in the spring in which she “freaked out” during an April broadcast and remained silent because she feared she was “fired after a shift” for her new job. “I’m basically learning to stay in a booth while I’m in a booth,” she added.

One person familiar with the tangle between media partners and the MLB calls the situation “Apple’s worst nightmare,” as it has the potential to turn off would-be viewers in that kind of game with abundant appeal for casual fans.

“There is overwhelming consumer frustration as more and more sports switch to streaming,” producer and former network executive Evan Shapiro told Deadline in an interview. “We are about to reach a breaking point.”

This isn’t the first time Yankees fans have had to brush up on the basics of streaming to follow the game. (So ​​nascent is the migration of the sports world to the cloud that the MLB network was actually showing detailed instructions to viewers looking to subscribe to Apple TV +.) Amazon’s financial investment in YES brought 21 exclusive broadcasts over the course of this season. , and there have been constant complaints about the level of consumer marketing the tech giant put into that effort against its all-out blitz for the NFL.

Apple, likewise, has taken a “if you build it, they will come” approach, according to many observers. Unlike Amazon, whose Prime subscription plan, Fire TV devices, and other touchpoints offer multiple ways to reach viewers, Apple has a single-digit share of the connected TV market through its Apple TV and Apple TV + devices. it remains a smaller player scale among the best subscription streaming outlets. Although no viewership numbers for baseball have been released by Amazon or Apple, the understanding among stakeholders is that audiences are likely a fraction of what YES gets, which was 600,000 total viewers earlier this week, with a peak of 756,000, for a series against the Pittsburgh pirates.

The judge’s jam also caught the attention of the New York Attorney General joy James, who focused on it just two days after filing a lawsuit against the blockbuster Donald Trump, his family and company.

“Denying millions of New Yorkers and fans across the nation the opportunity to see Aaron Judge step onto the plate is both wrong and unfair,” he said in a statement. “New Yorkers paid their cable bills expecting to see sports programming live. … I ask Apple and the MLB to reach a fair deal with the YES network so that fans can watch what we all hope will become history tonight.

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