by Jason Snell
Apple provides new “Friday Night Baseball” details
It’s opening day! And Apple has provided more information about its forthcoming baseball broadcasts, which premiere Friday:
Produced by MLB Network’s Emmy Award-winning production team in partnership with Apple, “Friday Night Baseball” will offer a modern and dynamic broadcast experience that appeals to new viewers and veteran fans alike. Each game broadcast will employ state-of-the-art cameras, including high-speed Phantoms, the high-resolution Megalodon, and more throughout the season to present vivid, live-action shots, and offer immersive sound in 5.1 with spatial audio enabled. “Friday Night Baseball” will also incorporate new on-screen graphics that include innovative new probabilities-based forecasts of different situational outcomes, plus highlights and live look-ins from around the league integrated right into the broadcast. Throughout the “Friday Night Baseball” broadcasts, fans can enjoy on-screen callouts about batters’ walk-up songs from Apple Music, test their knowledge of baseball trivia with help from Siri, and more. And, in a first for MLB games, “Friday Night Baseball” will feature rules analysis and interpretation from former MLB umpire Brian Gorman.
Makes sense that Apple is highlighting the high-tech aspects of the production, since it’s destined for streaming only and therefore has more interactive possibilities. (But keep in mind, the broadcast is being produced for Apple by MLB, so in some ways it will be reminiscent of an MLB Network broadcast.)
The technical details are interesting. The press release mentions high-speed and high-resolution cameras and spatial audio, but also says there will be “more throughout the season.” It seems like this will be a work in progress with different technology available for different games—and that’s not really surprising, given the immense technical complexity of broadcasting two live baseball games from different stadiums every single week. (Related: Why isn’t Apple announcing that these broadcasts will be in 4K? My guess is that some—most?—of the stadium broadcast facilities they’re using don’t support 4K resolution. But I would bet that Apple will want games in 4K HDR whenever it can. Perhaps that’s one of the items behind the “more throughout the season” statement.)
Beyond the technical details, Apple has also announced the broadcast teams for the first games, and they’re more diverse than your run-of-the-mill MLB broadcast. The pre- and postgame studio host is Lauren Gardner, joined by various former players as analysts. The Orioles’ Melanie Newman becomes the second woman to lead a national MLB broadcast team, as she’ll call Mets-Nationals with analysts Chris Young and Hannah Keyser. The second game (Astros-Angels) will feature Stephen Nelson on play-by-play with analysts Katie Nolan and Hunter Pence. I assume that Newman and Nelson will be calling many games as part of the “Friday Night Baseball” package, but Apple’s press release is unclear on that point.
Apple also announced that it’s rolling out a bunch of other MLB-related features: Apple News will feature highlights, Apple Music is compiling walk-up songs for Friday Night Baseball participants, and a new 24/7 linear channel will feature programming including a weekly “Countdown to First Pitch” preview show on Thursdays, a “MLB Daily Recap” morning show, and the “MLB Big Inning” live look-in show every weeknight.
And if you’re not an Apple TV+ subscriber, two reminders: The games will be free to watch, at least for the first half of the season, and they’re exclusive to Apple TV+, so they won’t appear on your local cable or broadcast channels that usually broadcast your team’s games.