Apple TV+ ‘Friday Night Baseball’, Season 2

Apple Newsroom:

This season, “Friday Night Baseball” welcomes an exceptional group of broadcast talent to the announcer booths, including Wayne Randazzo (play-by-play), Dontrelle Willis (analyst), Heidi Watney (sideline reporter), Alex Faust (play-by-play), Ryan Spilborghs (analyst), and Tricia Whitaker (sideline reporter). Game assignments for announcers will be shared on a weekly basis.

That’s a completely different lineup of broadcasters from last year. But the biggest change from last year is that the games aren’t going to be made available free-of-charge — you’ll need an active TV+ subscription to watch. That’s not surprising, but it’s worth noting.

“Friday Night Baseball” will be produced by MLB Network’s Emmy Award-winning production team in partnership with Apple, bringing viewers an unparalleled viewing experience. Each game will feature state-of-the-art cameras to present vivid live-action shots, and offer immersive sound in 5.1 with Spatial Audio enabled. “Friday Night Baseball” will again utilize drone cameras for beautiful aerial stadium shots, as well as player mics and field-level mics to immerse fans in the gameplay and stadium atmosphere. Fans in the U.S. and Canada will also have the option to listen to the audio of the home and away teams’ local radio broadcasts during “Friday Night Baseball” games.

On that last point, here’s Jason Snell:

One of the biggest complaints people had last year about Friday Night Baseball — and let’s be honest, it’s a complaint about any sport with a strong local announcer base that’s then broadcast to a single national audience using a neutral set of announcers — is that people couldn’t hear the voices they knew and loved while watching the game. Apple has addressed this issue by letting users switch over to audio from home or away radio broadcasts. (This is also a feature of Apple’s MLS streaming package, though right now I believe it’s home radio only.)

Years ago I tried getting this experience manually: when the Yankees were playing on national TV, I’d turn the sound off on my TV and listen the Yankees’ radio announcers (John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman) via the MLB app on my phone. It was so tricky to get the timing just right that I gave up on it. Having it as a perfectly-synced option for Friday Night Baseball is a breakthrough feature.

Bonus factoid, via Jayson Stark at The Athletic (paywalled, but here’s an archive link just in case you need it):

The only other change this season involves games televised by MLB Network and Apple TV+. For those games, viewers will get a live look at MLB’s replay center. And if a replay decision in those games warrants more explanation, a former umpire, such as Brian Gorman or Dale Scott, will explain the verdict — while doing their best and most eloquent imitations of former NFL and college basketball official Gene Steratore.

A few years ago, at the invitation of the MLB Advanced Media team, I got to see the replay center in New York. I wasn’t allowed to go in the room, but could see inside through large windows. It’d be fun to see it during games, and it’s a great idea to have former umpires available to explain these verdicts. That’s worked out well for the NFL.

Monday, 27 March 2023