How Apple TV+ Ruined an SF Giants Tradition
There is nothing more American than baseball: groups of friends and fans getting ready early for an afternoon or evening game, sharing greasy backyard burgers and barbeque, arguing about hitting statistics and pitcher ERA, moaning about this ball club or that ball club that hasn’t been to the World Series in forever. Then you’re there, you’ve arrived, and all the sounds and smells and tastes and the announcers calling out your favorite player’s name and the cheers of the crowd and the boo’s of the mob and the crack of the bat that sends that little white and red ball into the stands, sending the entire place into a state of ascension.
So, when an old friend who happened to be in town last Friday popped in to hang, both of us being baseball fans, we did what any standard American would do: we decided to watch the Giants. Remember, this was what San Francisco natives had been doing since 1958 when The Giants and their arch rival, the Los Angeles Dodgers, made history as the first Major League Baseball teams to play on the West Coast. We went to watch the game down at Danny Coyle’s, a favorite haunt of mine that serves the best Guinness in town (along with the Plough and the Stars), but the game wasn’t on. Something was amiss.
“Any chance we can get the game on?” I remember asking politely, confused, why everyone was watching the Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays.
The bartender, eyes sorrowful, confused, and hurt, explained that the Giants weren’t on because it was a Friday game, now owned by Apple TV +.
What the fuck? I remember thinking. Then I was reminded of the same shit Amazon pulled with Thursday Night Football which I could expect from an establishment like the NFL, but baseball…the MLB…on a Friday night…not like this.
As a refresher, in April 2021, the NFL announced a 10-year deal with Amazon, granting exclusive rights to broadcast Thursday Night Football on Amazon Prime Video, starting from the 2022 season. This marked the first time a streaming platform secured exclusive national rights for a major sports league’s regular season games. The partnership aimed to attract younger, digitally-savvy audiences and strengthen Amazon’s position in the competitive streaming market. All this while highlighting the growing influence of streaming services in sports broadcasting, forcing anyone interested in watching the Thursday night game – like we were trying that Friday night with the Giants – to subscribe and pay for Amazon Prime.
The exact financial details of the NFL’s deal with Amazon for Thursday Night Football rights were not publicly disclosed, but it was reported that Amazon would pay about $1 billion per year for the exclusive rights, amounting to $10 billion over the 10-year agreement. Naturally, and probably the most American and capitalistic thing Apple TV+ could do, is follow suit…with the MLB happily obliging.
“Well,” my friend said. “This sucks. I guess we could try another bar?”
I agreed, sadly leaving Danny Coyle’s and their legendary Guinness behind.
We tried two more bars in the neighborhood, informing us that they didn’t have Apple TV+ and had no intention of paying for another service on top of their other subscriptions, internet, etc. This left my friend and I out of luck with a seemingly simple, true activity that baseball fans had been enjoying well…forever.
That moment of thievery of our afternoon from Apple’s and the MLB’s deal felt reminiscent of many things in the past, from airlines taking away legroom from its customers to fit more seats, to the Amazon and NFL deal mentioned above, to a more extreme upcoming breach of privacy with the Federal Reserve’s new payment system “FEDNOW” and the launch of a United States CBDC. This simple pleasure of watching the Giants was suddenly and unexpectedly taken away without a vote or say, similar to so many things in American culture in the last twenty years, thus leaving the public to bend the knee to these moves of corporate greed or simply not watch.
It reminded me of an old George Carlin clip from “You Are All Diseased!” where he was on the topic of security, but I feel it’s connected to the continuously overarching reach and power of corporations and the establishments like the MLB willing to take cash instead of upholding the time-honored relationship of their fans. Carlin said,
“…it’s just one more way of reducing your liberty and reminding you that they can fuck with you anytime they want as long as you put up with it, which means, of course, anytime they want because that’s what Americans do now they’re always willing to trade away a little of their freedom in exchange for the feeling the illusion of security. We now have a completely neurotic population obsessed with security and safety.”
This feeling of the “illusion of security and safety” here feels more like Amazon’s pitch to the NFL and likely what Apple TV hurled at the MLB – the chance to market to media partners and tap into the growing influence of streaming services and packaged to us as “instant accessibility, anywhere, anytime” yet, in reality, outside of the board room, this move was simply forcing people to subscribe to their platforms. If you didn’t do that, you won’t be watching the game then.
My friend and I went our separate ways, sharing a drink without the game. Naturally, we endured without the Giants (they lost in the 11th), but that wasn’t the crux of the matter. Humans invariably survive, adapting to countless challenges. The concern is how many ordinary activities, such as watching your favorite team on a Friday afternoon, become locked behind paywalls or subscription models, potentially rendering a culture steeped in history, community, and inclusivity increasingly inaccessible. Speculating about the future, I have to ask myself, what will they gatekeep next that will force people to say, no more?