Media Views: Big shifts in MLB national TV coverage, including weekly streaming-only games | St. Louis Cardinals

Much less ESPN. Tuesdays with TBS. Then add a fruit (apple) and bird (peacock) to mix with MLB Network, Fox and FS1.

These are the key figures in the meaningful way baseball fans will watch games this season — and in some cases fewer games than last year.

The surge in streaming popularity has provided another revenue stream for Major League Baseball, although these productions will be available to fewer fans than traditional television networks.

• MLB has signed Apple TV+ for Friday night doubleheaders, games that will be exclusive to Apple – meaning there will be no local television broadcasts. When the Cardinals play there, you can only watch it on Apple TV+. This service costs $4.99 per month, although the company says the games will be offered without requiring a subscription for at least the first half of the season, which it has set its schedule for. The Cards are said to have three appearances – road games against the Reds (April 22) and Pirates (May 20) and a home game against the Cubs (June 24).

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• The Peacock streaming service has been in talks with MLB to show early games on Sunday 18th. And we mean early — just after 10:30 a.m. or 11:00 a.m. (St. Louis time) most weeks. Peacock, which is owned by NBCUniversal, costs $9.99 a month and is believed to also have exclusive rights aside from its debut production, which is reportedly being simulcast on NBC. (That means no Bally Sports Midwest for card games, just like Apple TV+.) There’s no word on whether a subscription fee grace period will be offered.

All of this will be similar to games previously moved to streaming platforms Facebook and YouTube from regional sports networks such as Bally Sports Midwest featuring the Cardinals.

• ESPN has slashed its schedule drastically, from 90 games last season to 29 – all but four of which will be part of its long-running Sunday Night Baseball series. And SNB not only has a new look, but a new approach that is more focused on analytics.

Karl Ravech replaces Matt Vasgersian on play-by-play and will work with commentators Eduardo Perez and David Cone, taking over from Alex Rodriguez. But Rodriguez isn’t gone as he joins play-by-play broadcaster Michael Kay to watch eight alternate versions of TV shows airing on ESPN2. It’s a similar approach that these networks are taking with Peyton and Eli Manning for some Monday Night Football games.

The changes at Sunday Night Baseball go deeper than what’s in the dressing room, but they will also include what they say. “Advanced Metrics” like Launch Angle, Barrel Rate, OPS and Spin Rate Figure are more in focus than traditional stats like RBIs, Stolen Bases and ERA.

“We … believe that (Cone and Perez) will offer a masterclass in contemporary analysis, including Statcast-driven data and discussion,” said Norby Williamson, ESPN executive vice president.

• A large chunk of the national schedule goes to TBS, which will have a Tuesday night game throughout the season to replace its Sunday afternoon lineup during the offseason. The schedule begins April 12 with San Diego in San Francisco, and Cardinals-Mets is April 26. But this TBS production is being blacked out in the St. Louis market in favor of the Bally Sports Midwest television show.

• Fox/FS1 is back with its Saturday package, with some games airing in the afternoon and others in the evening. The Cardinals are scheduled for six appearances beginning May 1 with their game in San Francisco.

• MLB Network has the highest utilization again, more than 200 live competitions. But all Cardinals performances are being blacked out in the St. Louis market in favor of the BSM version of the TV show.

Optimized cabins

The retirement of Mike Shannon, whose career as a Cardinals broadcaster ended after 50 seasons last year, has led to a consolidation of the team’s broadcasting roster.

Working exclusively in radio, Shannon had reduced his schedule to around 50 home games last year in recent years. He will not be replaced as John Rooney and Ricky Horton now have busy schedules. They were previously the road team, with Rooney also working on the home competitions – with Shannon when he was present. Horton stepped in when Shannon was free.

Mike Claiborne remains the fill-in broadcaster when Rooney or Horton are absent and continues to be involved in the pregame and postgame shows, which are alternately hosted by Tom Ackerman, Kevin Wheeler and Joe Pott.

Shannon’s departure also has a bit of an impact on the television booth, as Horton’s now full commitment to radio throws him out of the commentator rotation who work alongside play-by-play broadcaster Dan McLaughlin. But Horton will appear in some BSM pre/postgame programs.

Jim Edmonds and Brad Thompson will alternate as Stand Analysts. Rick Ankiel, who was also part of the mix, will occasionally work on pre/postgame shows instead. So does Al Hrabosky.

Scott Warmann and Alexa Datt are the main presenters of these programs, with Jim Hayes being the main reporter in the game.

no A la carte cards

While streaming is growing nationally and remains a part of Bally Sports Midwest’s map coverage, a subscription to a broadcaster that offers BSM is still required to stream these games.

BSM’s parent company, Sinclair Broadcasting, has been talking about making streaming of its many regional sports channels available to fans for direct purchase for some time, but that hasn’t happened yet. And the Cardinals don’t appear to be included in the first wave of the rollout.

BSM’s direct-to-consumer option is expected to begin sometime this season with reportedly five teams participating – Kansas City, Detroit, Milwaukee, Miami and Tampa Bay.

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