Apple TV+ debuts Friday Night Baseball

Apple made its opening pitch to baseball fans Friday night when Apple TV+ streamed the first in a series of games exclusive to the service — a rain-prolonged contest between the Washington Nationals and the New York Mets that ended in a 7-3 win for the visiting Mets.

Friday Night Baseball, as per the deal with MLB that Apple announced at its March 8 event, will be the only way to watch the two games on the Apple TV+ schedule each Friday. Apple is making it free to watch through the first half of the season.

As seen in the Apple TV+ app on a Google Chromecast, the on-screen product looked sharp but also exhibited a few errors.

Streamed in 1080p HD, the video appeared even sharper, with some fans on Twitter incorrectly praising it at as 4K resolution. Apple brought its typically restrained design to the onscreen graphics, which cleanly displayed both the usual stats like a pitcher’s ERA (earned run average) but also less obvious metrics like WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched).

The bottom right of the screen featured a live probability estimate of the outcome of the current situation — for example, the percentage odds of a hitter reaching base.

But early on in the game, the video glitched out with a “Video Not Available” error that unhelpfully said, “There’s a problem loading this video. If this continues, check your internet connection.” The 300 Mbps Verizon Fios fiber-optic connection in use was not the problem, as seen when the stream resumed minutes later.

The broadcast crew that Apple had announced Thursday — play-by-play announcer Melanie Newman, analyst (and former MLB outfielder) Chris Young, analyst Hannah Keyser, and on-field reporter Brooke Fletcher — brought some youthful energy and fun to the proceedings.

But they also indulged in such on-air digressions as a self-promotional episode in which Nats outfielder Juan Soto, mic’ed up for the game, voiced his admiration for the Apple TV player and his wish that Apple would send one to everybody on the team. No viewer could have been surprised to hear minutes later that Apple was obliging Soto’s wish by shipping out a set of 4K Apple TV boxes.

Many Mets fans seemed to resent this replacement for their usual SNY broadcast crew of Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling. Nats fans, who have a subpar product to watch in the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN is once again covering road Nats and Orioles games remotely), did not seem nearly as put out, to judge from online banter.

A second broadcast crew — Stephen Nelson doing play-by-play duties, Hunter Pence and Katie Nolan handling analysis, and Heidi Watney reporting from the field — handled Friday’s second Apple TV+ game, in which the Houston Astros beat the Los Angeles Angels 13-6.

Apple isn’t the only streaming service to disrupt the traditional regional sports network monopoly on local game coverage. NBCUniversal’s Peacock announced its own MLB exclusive Thursday that covers 18 Sunday games this season, while New York-area Yankees fans will once again find Amazon Prime Video the only way to watch 21 games this year.