Apple’s first live sports broadcast will promote Siri and Apple Music

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Washington Nationals second baseman Josh Harrison (5) gets the force out of New York Mets third baseman J.D. Davis (28) in the 6th inning of the spring training game at Clover Park.

Jasen Vinlove | USA TODAY Sports | Reuters

Apple’s first foray into live sports starts on Friday when the company will broadcast two Major League Baseball games on Apple TV+.

The show, “Friday Night Baseball,” will be produced by MLB Network, and will be available without an Apple TV+ subscription for now, Apple said on Thursday. The broadcast will have several on-screen tie-ins with Apple’s products, including on-screen graphics highlighting batter walk-up music available on Apple Music, and baseball trivia with Siri.

It shows Apple’s strategy with “Friday Night Baseball” is to offer free live sports while marketing its streaming service to potential subscribers. The broadcast’s promotion of other Apple services also suggests a deep partnership with Major League Baseball around the show and its production.

Apple is using the success of its iPhone and the cash flow it generates to expand its business beyond hardware to online services. Apple introduced Apple TV+ in 2019 for $5 per month, initially focusing it on big-budget scripted TV shows and movies.

The broadcast is also a test of whether Apple’s strategy to offer TV+ on non-Apple platforms, like the web, other set-top boxes, or gaming consoles, can meaningfully increase its audience. While subscriber numbers for Apple TV+ haven’t been released, one of the service’s movies, Coda, won the Oscar for best picture in March.

Apple and Major League Baseball have a long history together: MLB released one of the first apps for the iPhone back in 2008.

On Friday, Apple will broadcast the New York Mets at the Washington Nationals at 7 PM E.T., and then the Houston Astros at the Los Angeles Angeles at 9:30 PM E.T. The first game will be called by Melanie Newman with Chris Young adding color. The second game will be called by Stephen Nelson, with Hunter Pence acting as analyst. Apple will also air live pre- and post-game coverage.

The games will only be available on Apple’s service, not through a local cable network or Major League Baseball’s streaming service. They’re also available internationally, in countries like Japan, Canada, South Korea, and the United Kingdom.

Apple also said on Thursday that it will broadcast a weekly preview of upcoming Major League Baseball games and a daily recap of action around the league.

While Friday is Apple’s first live sports broadcast, other streaming services have experimented with adding live sports to gain access to a bigger audience. In 2019, Amazon streamed several Yankees games, and it has also aired Thursday Night Football games.

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