Roku scores exclusive rights to MLB Sunday Leadoff games

Baseball is coming to Roku in a major way.

On Monday the streaming platform announced it secured rights to be the exclusive home of live Major League Baseball Sunday Leadoff games (aka typically first game of the day) under a multi-year deal.

Roku will offer 18 MLB games airing Sundays for free on its free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) service The Roku Channel. Coverage kicks off this Sunday, May 19 with the St. Louis Cardinals hosting the Boston Red Sox.

According to Roku, it will be the home for the first games of the day on “most Sundays throughout the season,” noting there’s also an exclusivity window during airtime. MLB Sunday Leadoff will stream every Sunday on the FAST service, as well as, until September 15 (see the full MLB schedule on Roku at the end of this article).

MLB is collaborating on production of game telecasts, with broadcast teams market-focused each week, according to Roku.

And Roku isn’t just bringing live MLB games to its platform for free. Coinciding with the Sunday games, the streamer announced a new “MLB Zone” that will help fans navigate and discover upcoming live games alongside additional baseball-related content such as nightly recaps and highlights, with a fully programmed linear MLB FAST channel.

“As television programming, live sports, and the leagues have fragmented across networks, apps, and multiple packages, Roku—home to all of them—plays an increasingly crucial role for viewers and advertisers,” said Charlie Collier, president of Roku Media, in a statement. “With this deal, Roku delivers free, live, weekly Sunday baseball and 24/7 baseball curation, destinations, and channels across our platform. The lead-in to all of television is now the lead-off for Sunday baseball as well. It’s a terrific partnership.”

Roku since at least 2022 has been working to create a less cumbersome sports experience for consumers when it launched a Sports hub to help viewers find games and programming as sports rights and games splintered across services and platforms. More recently it’s worked to bring in more “shoulder content” – such as through a recent deal with the NBA that includes an exclusive FAST channel and related NBA content. For the new MLB Zone, Roku’s also serving MLB Game of the Week replays and Minor League Baseball game replays, among other content.

TVREV analyst Alan Wolk in a column on StreamTV Insider, explained how this so-called shoulder content as seen with the NBA and Roku is a good move for both FAST services and for leagues, and as he put it, involves “everything but the actual burger.”

But with Monday’s announcement, to stick with Wolk’s analogy, Roku has added meat to the proverbial bun.

MLB doesn’t mark the first live sports rights for Roku, which last year picked up rights to live Formula E races  – although those rights were split with CBS, and MLB marks a league and sport that likely carries more fan and brand weight.

As for MLB, games available for free on Roku’s streaming platform and FAST service could attract a younger and broader audience. At the end of Q1, Roku had 81.6 million active streaming accounts. And since games are airing on The Roku Channel, that means fans can watch even if they don’t have a Roku device, as the Roku app is also available on other platforms including iOS and Android devices, Amazon Fire TVs, Samsung TVs, Google TVs and other Android TVOS devices. As of Q4 2023, The Roku Channel reaches U.S. households with an estimated 120 million people.

“With free games available to anyone, MLB games on Roku will be widely accessible to fans,” said Noah Garden, MLB Deputy Commissioner of Business and Media, in a statement. “Since Roku serves as an entertainment gateway for millions, this partnership offers a valuable new promotional and distribution platform for MLB games and content.”

Roku could also help drive viewers to sign up and pay for an MLB.TV subscription, where in the announcement, Roku noted fans can watch all 18 matchups anywhere in the world. See Roku's full MLB Sunday Leadoff schedule below:


Roku MLB Sunday leadoff schedule
Roku's MLB Sunday Leadoff game schedule. (Roku)