Cardinals games have been shown exclusively on streaming services four times this season. There was no traditional television coverage of these competitions, either on local airline Bally Sports Midwest or elsewhere.
This part of Major League Baseball’s media deals has angered many Redbirds rooters who don’t have access to the streaming outlets. But those complaints are just a small wave compared to what could unfold on Friday, when Apple TV+ will exclusively show the Cardinals-Dodgers game from Los Angeles, which begins at 9:10 p.m. St. Louis time.
Not only is it a battle of the top teams, it’s also possible that the Cards’ Albert Pujols could hit his 700th home run of his career tonight. He hits two home runs in that contest before becoming the fourth player in MLB history to reach that milestone.
As such, a season-long build-up of “Pujolsmania” in his second leg with the Cardinals could reach a crescendo in a game that many fans of the team won’t see. Although watching the streaming production is free, an Apple account is required. Likewise, a device that can receive the feed, such as a a smartphone, tablet, smart TV, etc. – equipment that some fans, especially older ones, do not have.
“We spoke with MLB about the local concerns if Albert were close to hitting 700 home runs without BSM coverage,” said Dan Farrell, the Cardinals’ senior vice president, who oversees the team’s broadcast operations. “Unfortunately, the MLB-Apple contract is very tight with no flexibility regarding local Telecaster accommodations for milestone events.”
In New York, it’s a similar situation for the Yankees and Aaron Judge, who came into play Thursday a home run behind Roger Mari’s American League record of 61. Apple is exclusively streaming the Yanks-Red Sox game on Friday night.
MLB Network has recently stepped into its programming to broadcast Pujols and Judge at-bats when their games were televised on regional sports networks. But MLBN won’t do that on Friday because Apple has standalone live coverage, though the baseball channel could show a homer shortly after the fact. ESPN also has cut-in rights, but not for games shown nationally.
Streaming is becoming commonplace, with the biggest move yet being the NFL moving most of its Thursday night games from television to show exclusively on Amazon Prime Video.
The Amazon debut took place last week and Nielsen, which measures viewership, says the Chiefs-Chargers game drew about 11.8 million viewers on Amazon. Unlike the MLB, the NFL requires that the streamed games be simulcast on a television station in the playing teams’ markets, and approximately 1.1 million people watched this way in Kansas City and Los Angeles, bringing the total viewership to approximately 13 million increased. The first Thursday game of last year, simulcast on Fox and NFL Network, drew about 15 million.
In the meantime, this will be the last streaming-only card game of the season, and by far the biggest. Apple has shown competitions against the lowly Reds, Pirates and Cubs, although the latter is a big rivalry game. Peacock streams games on Sundays and had a Redbirds preseason game in Pittsburgh.
But the end of this year’s streaming-only games of the cards will be of little consolation to many of their fans, not only if Pujols hits the milestone that night, but if they miss the opportunity to see him chasing the milestone .
Redbirds TV viewers, used to having Dan McLaughlin on the localized TV calls, will hear a national perspective instead – assuming they can access the feed. New York Mets broadcaster Wayne Randazzo, along with analysts Chris Young and Russell Dorsey, has the play-by-play of the competition. Tricia Whitaker serves as reporter.
McLaughlin, who is in his 25th season as the Cardinals’ local broadcaster, said he wouldn’t be discouraged from missing the call if Pujols hits the milestone on Friday. (McLaughlin and BSM have the remaining regular season games on the cards.)
“Would I (personally) be disappointed? No,” he said. “The most important aspect of this is that he reaches 700 and above. (Would I be disappointed) from a fan and baseball consumer perspective? Yes. This moment should be available for every fan in the world. Who knows when or if it will happen again. This is baseball history.”
He’ll be doing a few innings of the game on the Cardinals Radio Network, as he’s done on occasion this year when Bally Sports Midwest telecasts are preempted by national productions. If he was on the air there Friday and Pujols showed up on 699, McLaughlin said he would hand the mic to leading radio announcer John Rooney and then hope for the milestone.
“I’m going to keep quiet and let John Rooney knock it out of the park,” McLaughlin said. This is his calling and he deserves it.”
Connect to Apple TV+
Here are ways to access Friday’s Cardinals-Dodgers broadcast on Apple TV+, per Major League Baseball and Apple. Remember that an Apple account is required:
- Launch the Apple TV app and select the game right from there.
- In the MLB.TV app, tap Apple TV+ Game. You will be taken to the Apple TV app (if available).
- Go to https://tv.apple.com/ and sign in with – or create – an Apple ID.
It’s recommended that those who haven’t seen Apple try to connect early. Apple’s Red Sox-Yankees game begins at 6:05 p.m
For more connection information, see: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT213099.