By Jason Snell
July 21, 2020 4:30 PM PT
Service Station: Sports might be back?
There was baseball on my television last night. Maybe there will be baseball on my television tonight, too. Who knows? While I’m not counting on Major League Baseball being able to complete its truncated regular season and a full postseason without serious issues caused by the spread of COVID-19, I am excited about the soothing rhythms of live baseball returning for as long as the league and the players can make it work. (I hope they stay safe and healthy and complete the entire season safely, obviously.)
No, MLB TV will not give cord-cutters access to their local teams for a low price. (They’ll need to subscribe to an over the top service like YouTube TV or Hulu Plus Live TV, instead, which is why the TV stations who control local TV rights paid a huge amount of money to your local team for the privilege.) But what it does is give me access to live baseball, in audio and video form, from everywhere else around the league.
But what impresses me most about MLB TV is not the service itself, but how MLB has built an array of apps around it, with all sorts of interesting features. The MLB app offers live video to MLB.TV subscribers, but also live box scores, highlights, replays, and a lot more. (Two seasons later, the augmented-reality feature MLB and Apple trumpeted in 2017 has turned into vaporware, not that anyone can go to the ballpark this season, anyway.) And I love using the MLB app for Apple TV, which lets me toggle between two games at once.
I haven’t spent any time with the apps for the NFL, NBA, and NHL, but I do get the distinct impression that Major League Baseball has led the way with its aggressive development of apps for various devices, most notably Apple’s platforms.
MLB TV is only one of the many ways I spend money because I love sports, though. You could argue that the only reason I haven’t cut the cord on my cable TV yet is that it’s the best way for me to feed my baseball, soccer, and football interests. (Alas, I’ve yet to find an over-the-top service that will let me watch Giants games on NBC Bay Area, the Pac-12 Network, and NFL Red Zone. The holy trinity!) Xfinity does—and this is why Comcast is still getting my money, however reluctantly.
I also pay to read about sports. I’m a big fan of The Athletic, the subscription-only site for quality sportswriting. And I also have digital subscriptions to three local newspapers, in part because they add some more quality local sports coverage to my media diet.
And while I’ve seen some people write that spending the last few months without sports has made them realize that they don’t need sports in my life, I have found the exact opposite. Sports was a valuable portion of my media diet that offered comfort, entertainment, and even sent signals about the passage of time. Without any baseball it still feels like we’re stuck in March.
I’m under no illusions that this baseball season, the NFL season, or the college football season will be anything but unusual (if they happen at all)—and I admit to some unease about players potentially being pressured into unsafe situations by their employers—but I am very happy to have the distraction as long as it lasts.
Just don’t make me calculate the cost of all the sports-related services I’m paying for every month. I’m begging you.