Baseball season is almost upon us, and that means the return of Apple’s Friday Night Baseball doubleheader. As was the case last year, it’ll be a broadcast with recurring national announcers and a bunch of extra Apple flair, including drone shots and spatial audio. As was not the case last year, when Apple gave it away for free, this year’s programming will be limited to Apple TV+ subscribers. As detailed by Apple Newsroom:
“Friday Night Baseball” will be produced by MLB Network’s Emmy Award-winning production team in partnership with Apple, bringing viewers an unparalleled viewing experience. Each game will feature state-of-the-art cameras to present vivid live-action shots, and offer immersive sound in 5.1 with Spatial Audio enabled. “Friday Night Baseball” will again utilize drone cameras for beautiful aerial stadium shots, as well as player mics and field-level mics to immerse fans in the gameplay and stadium atmosphere. Fans in the U.S. and Canada will also have the option to listen to the audio of the home and away teams’ local radio broadcasts during “Friday Night Baseball” games.
That last line is big news. One of the biggest complaints people had last year about Friday Night Baseball—and let’s be honest, it’s a complaint about any sport with a strong local announcer base that’s then broadcast to a single national audience using a neutral set of announcers—is that people couldn’t hear the voices they knew and loved while watching the game. Apple has addressed this issue by letting users switch over to audio from home or away radio broadcasts. (This is also a feature of Apple’s MLS streaming package, though right now I believe it’s home radio only.)
There are a few minor catches—aren’t there always? According to Apple, “Radio broadcasts for the Texas Rangers are available only for the team’s home games. In Canada, radio broadcasts are available only for Toronto Blue Jays games.” Tough break for Canadian fans who want to listen to non-Blue Jays broadcasters of non-Blue Jays games, and I don’t even want to know about the contractual issues that preclude the Rangers radio voices from being used on away games.
But for everyone else, this is a great step forward for Friday Night Baseball, one that uses the multi-stream, multi-layer potential of streaming media to improve the product and improve audience choice.
Friday Night Baseball returns April 7 with Rangers-Cubs followed by Padres-Braves.