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Apple MLS Season Pass technical details unveiled; MLB Friday Night Baseball broadcasters changing

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Earlier this month, Apple officially launched its new MLS Season Pass subscription, offering unrestricted access to all 2023 Major League Soccer games. Ahead of the season officially starting on February 25, Apple and MLS have revealed more details about live event production for MLS games this season.

Separately, a new report has also revealed details on some changes Apple has in store for its second season of MLB “Friday Night Baseball” on Apple TV+ this year.

Apple and MLS

A report from The Athletic last October described MLS and Apple TV production plans as “technically ambitious.” At the same time, however, the report said that the two may have to cut some corners to hit the 2023 season start deadline.

In a new press release today, Apple and Major League Soccer went more in-depth on their event production plans for this season. With MLS Season Pass, viewers will be able to stream games in “enhanced production quality,” though resolution will be limited to 1080p:

Fans will enjoy enhanced production quality when watching matches on MLS Season Pass, which will feature more camera angles, 1080p video, Dolby 5.1 audio, and enhanced data and graphics in live match coverage all season long for better field coverage, replays, and storytelling around the clubs and players. A vibrant new graphics package for MLS Season Pass will bring MLS clubs to the forefront and provide new and exciting opportunities to incorporate storylines, stats, and advanced data visualizations.

More details about broadcast plans can be found in today’s press release on the MLS Soccer website.

The season kicks off on February 25. You can sign up for MLS Season Pass for $14.99 per month or $99 per season.

Apple and MLB

Meanwhile, a new report from the New York Post today indicates that Apple is shaking up the broadcast team it will use for its Friday Night Baseball doubleheader broadcasts this season. As a refresher, Apple inked a deal with MLB last year to stream two games every Friday night to Apple TV+ subscribers.

The report says that Apple will not bring back Katie Nolan or Melanie Newman for Friday Night Baseball this year. It will also switch to a two-person broadcast booth for all games, a change from the three-person setup it used last year.

For last year’s games, Nolan served as an analyst for Apple TV+, while Newman served as a play-by-play announcer. As part of this shakeup for 2023, Apple is reportedly hiring Dontrelle Willis from Fox Sports as an analyst, while Wayne Randazzo will return as a play-by-play commentator.

Apple is reportedly “still figuring out” who will be its other play-by-play announcer and analyst. It’s unclear if the other members of the 2022 team will return:

Apple and MLB executives liked Nolan’s partners, Stephen Nelson and Hunter Pence. Nelson has taken a job to work local Dodgers broadcasts, which makes it difficult to regularly call Friday nights for Apple. Pence remains a possibility, but may not want to do every week, like he did last year. Young also remains in the mix.

9to5Mac’s Take

I find it fascinating to watch Apple tackle its expansion into live sports. This is an area where the company is still learning, but also an area that’s going to become a bigger focus going forward.

The MLB Friday Night Baseball broadcast announcer teams faced some criticism last year. The biggest complaint was that the coverage was aimed too much at casual viewers rather than avid baseball fans. This, of course, is to be expected with almost any national broadcast of a sports league.

One thing to keep in mind regarding the 1080p limitation for MLS games is that MLB Friday Night Baseball games were also limited to 1080p last year. The quality of these streams, however, was universally praised due to the high bitrate in comparison to other streamers and traditional broadcasts.

Ideally, this will also be the case with MLS Season Pass, but we’ll have to wait until later this month to learn more.

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