For years on end, every Cardinals game was televised in St. Louis. The vast majority were on what now is Bally Sports Midwest, and the biggest chore for fans was to make an occasional switch to KTVI (Channel 2), ESPN or FS1.
But those days are gone, as in recent seasons Major League Baseball has been parceling games to streaming-only services such as Facebook and YouTube. And on Friday night, the impact on the Cards will be the biggest yet. The game against their biggest rival, the Chicago Cubs, will be shown exclusively on Apple TV+, which is streaming MLB doubleheaders this season. No BSM — or any other television channel, for that matter.
Those with a smart TV are able to watch, as well as anyone with another device such as a smart phone, computer, etc., that is connected to Apple. There is no charge to watch, however an Apple account — with ID — is needed to have access. (More instructions below.)
It’s the most significant such step for Cardinals fans in a trend that began in 2018, when Facebook exclusively streamed two of their games. Two were on YouTube in 2019, with two more again only there in 2021. (None were exclusively streamed in the pandemic-truncated 2020 season).
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Before this year, the impact was comparatively minimal for those who are not online-savvy — all six of those affected contests were on weekday afternoons.
It was more of a jolt for some Cardinals fans this season when Apple and Peacock became exclusive MLB streamers, and some Cards night games were selected for Apple’s package of Friday evening exclusive doubleheaders. Until now, those were road contests against the lowly Reds and Pirates. And the Peacock-only contest was an early Sunday away game against the Pirates.
That all ends Friday, when the series opener of the Cubs’ only midsummer visit of the season to St. Louis is shown only on Apple TV+, with first pitch set at 7:15 pm (Apple’s other game for the evening is Detroit-Arizona, at 8:30.)
Baltimore Orioles announcer Melanie Newman does the play-by-play in St. Louis, with former big-leaguer Chris Young and Yahoo Sports’ Hannah Keyser providing analysis. Bally Sports’ Brooke Fletcher is the reporter.
It is not known if the Cardinals will be making another streaming-only appearance this season, but nothing is imminent. The Apple schedule is set through July, and they aren’t on that. They are also not on Peacock’s slate, which is in place through Sept. 4. Peacock is showing contests that begin at 11 am Sundays.
Other games in series on BSM
Sinclair Broadcasting, owner of Bally Sports Midwest, is in the midst of a 15-year contract for the team’s regional television rights. It pays the Cardinals more than $1 billion over the life of the deal, which runs through 2032
The pact allows for about a dozen games to be exclusively shown by MLB’s national partners, so it could have been a lot worse for BSM this weekend — which figures to be one of the most-watched series of the summer in an already strong season for BSM. It says its Cards viewership is up 19% over the same point last season.
Bally Sports Midwest could have lost the Saturday Cards-Cubs contest to Fox, which shows games regionally over the air that night, and the ensuing game could have been picked up by ESPN for it’s “Sunday Night Baseball” offering this weekend.
But neither happened. So BSM has both, at 6:15 pm Saturday and 1:15 pm Sunday. Dan McLaughlin, as usual, has the play-by-play. Brad Thompson is the commentator for both telecasts, with Jim Hayes reporting and Scott Warmann as well as Ricky Horton in the studio. Horton is also to be on the radio game broadcasts (KMOX, 1120 AM and the team’s network).
MLB pushes forward
MLB officials know that the streaming-only policy has angered some fans. But commissioner Rob Manfred, in this age of significantly declining cable TV subscriptions and the rise in popularity of streaming options, sounds as if deals such as the ones with Apple and Peacock not only are here to stay but will increase in the coming years.
“We are always sensitive to fan concerns; I understand the idea that, ‘I’m used to finding a game here and now it’s moved somewhere else,’” he said at a news conference following MLB’s recent owners’ meetings. “We would not have done either the Apple deal or the Peacock deal if we did not believe that experimentation with partners like that on the digital side of the business were crucial to our long-term efforts to make games more available, more widely available, more widely available on a flexible basis the way consumers want to buy them. It is a short-term issue that is designed to put us in a position to provide more access over the long haul.”
Those current streaming-exclusive deals bring a windfall to the league offices — $85 million annually from Apple, $30 million a year from Peacock, according to reports. Manfred termed them “really important” elements in “a rapidly changing media environment.
“Having a relationship with Peacock and more broadly with (Peacock parent company NBCUniversal) is important for us over the long haul,” Manfred said. “Apple’s an innovator, and we need to be innovative in our efforts to deliver games to fans on platforms that they use and visit frequently.”
The Apple-Peacock deals make the games they have available to fans in some far-flung areas in which they would normally be blacked out of the regional telecast under MLB’s sometimes confusing geographical-restriction policy. The Apple and Peacock productions are treated as would a national telecast on a regular television network, with no blackout areas.
“We are concerned about our reach,” Manfred said at that news conference. “We think that we have fans that want to watch baseball who don’t feel that they have an adequate opportunity to do that. There’s a strong sense among ownership that … (we) should step into the digital space in particular to provide fans with greater and more flexible opportunities to watch games.”
But in turn, it takes them away from viewers who normally would get them but will not because they don’t want, or don’t know how, to use the streaming services. The immediate concern seems to be addressing those out-of-market fans at the expense of regional cable networks and instead of reworking the territorial blackout rules.
“… It’s about giving fans that may be outside the traditional cable bundles adequate opportunity to see our games,” Manfred said, adding that it is a concern that some would-be viewers “don’t have an ample opportunity to do that .”
Here are ways to access Friday’s Cardinals-Cubs telecast on Apple TV+, per Major League Baseball and Apple. Remember, an Apple account is needed:
• Launch the Apple TV app and select the game directly from there.
• From the MLB.TV app, tap on Apple TV+ Game. You will be redirected to the Apple TV app (where available).
• Go to https://tv.apple.com/ and log in with — or create — an Apple ID.
It is recommended that those who have not watched Apple before try to connect early. The pregame show starts at 6:30 pm
Additional connection information is at: