Watching MLB games is now free on Apple so it can sell you another iPhone later


Each week, Apple TV+ subscribers will be able to watch a doubleheader of MLB games on the service.

In general, it will be similar to watching a baseball game on a traditional broadcast network, but with additional features like the ability to ask Siri for player stats or listen to your favorite player’s at-bat song from Apple Music.

For the time being, it’s also completely free. A $4.99-a-month Apple TV subscription isn’t required to view the content. However, it may, in the long run, benefit Apple’s sales of iPhones.

Even though this is the company’s first major foray into sports broadcasting, it points to a larger strategy with Apple TV+, which by all accounts (including Apple’s own) has far fewer subscribers than rivals such as Disney+ and HBO Max. When compared to the other services, Apple TV+’s library is smaller and more carefully curated by people, not an algorithm.

It’s understandable that no one at Apple would object to TV+ achieving Netflix-level subscriber numbers. During my conversation with Apple reps on Thursday, I learned that the company’s goal with services like Apple TV+ isn’t to gain a disproportionate share of the market. In place of focusing on quantity, it wants to concentrate on quality. Unquestionably, more people would be signing up for Apple TV+ if it were better.

That brought back memories of a post I wrote two years ago when Apple TV+ was still in its infancy. It’s not meant to compete with Netflix. It’s more in the style of classic HBO, which is a prestige collection of Emmy and Oscar bait with little in the way of filler.

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That aspect of the investigation is progressing nicely. Last month, “CODA” won best picture at the Oscars, while “Ted Lasso” took home several Emmys, including outstanding comedy series. Another surprise hit of the year was the dystopian workplace drama “Severance,” which was praised by critics and has already been renewed for another season.

For every one of Netflix’s big hits like “Stranger Things” and “Squid Game,” there are dozens of lower-brow programming options like “The Floor is Lava,” which are available on the site. Netflix has a lot of high-quality content, but some of it can get buried in the commotion.

Think of Apple TV+ in the same way that you think of all the extras that come with Amazon Prime. Apple doesn’t need to make a lot of money from streaming television. Only as an additional weapon in its arsenal to keep you purchasing iPhones and other Apple products. When it comes to sports programming, the addition of live baseball games on Apple TV+ is an excellent experiment for Apple to see if it can gain enough interest to expand its sports offerings on Apple TV+ in the future.

Also, Apple is expected to launch an iPhone hardware subscription service that would allow you to bundle Apple offerings such as TV+ with a new iPhone every year for an annual or monthly subscription fee. Apple would be in for a double whammy if that happened. Instead of upgrading phones every three or four years, customers would do so every year, which would increase the number of people using services such as TV+ and Apple Music+.

According to Deutsche Bank analysts in a research note released on Friday, the potential hardware and service bundle would “dramatically” increase the number of subscribers to Apple’s digital services. That, in turn, would serve as a major catalyst for the stock’s price movement.

All of this echoes what we’ve seen play out at Apple over the past few years, when the company began its push into online services. All of Apple’s products, from AirPods to Apple TV+, are designed to keep customers coming back for more and keep them loyal to the company.

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