Apple today finally become a player in live sports by announcing that Apple TV+ will offer an exclusive weekly Friday night doubleheader of Major League Baseball games this season. The games will not be broadcast anywhere else, including the teams’ regional sports channels or MLB.TV.

The technology giant made the announcement today during a press event.

“Just like all baseball fans, we can’t wait for the season to open,” said Peter Stern, Apple’s vice president of services. “Baseball has a special place in the heart of so many Apple customers — not just in the United States, but in many countries around the world. We’re proud to make Apple TV+ the home for great baseball moments throughout the season.”

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Of course, the doubleheader depends on whether there will be a 2022 season. MLB has already cancelled the first two series of the season as players and owners argue over terms in a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The two sides are meeting again today.

Apple said the Friday night doubleheader would begin as soon as the season does. And when it does, the Apple+ games will be free from local broadcast restrictions — and free without an Apple TV+ subscription for a limited time. The company did not say how long the games will be available for free. (Apple TV+ normally costs $4.99 a month.)

The company said Apple TV+ will also offer a live MLB highlights show every weeknight during the regular season as well as a 24/7 livestream with MLB game replays, news and analysis, highlights, classic games, and more.

“Apple is the ideal partner to bring ‘Friday Night Baseball’ to fans around the world,” said Noah Garden, MLB’s chief revenue officer. “Following milestones like the launch of At Bat on day one of the App Store in 2008 to the integration of Apple technology in ballparks across the country, this robust new game package is the perfect next collaboration in our long history of offering quality and innovative content to our fans. With national availability and international reach, MLB on Apple TV+ offers an exciting new platform to fans that allows a wider audience to connect with the game.”

Apple has been rumored to be interested in obtaining live sports rights for years, but the MLB deal is the company’s first major foray in the category. News reports have said Apple may also be interested in securing the rights to the next NFL Sunday Ticket contract after DIRECTV’s current one expires following the 2022 season.

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— Phillip Swann