It's getting awfully confusing to watch sports these days -- or at least many fans seem to think so.
The rise of streaming broadcasts has left many fans confounded about when and where to watch their favorite teams. The latest high-profile case came over the weekend, when Yankees fans were scrambling to watch All-Star slugger Aaron Judge's chase for the storied franchise's single-season home run record.
Friday night's Red Sox-Yankees game was carried by Apple TV+, which fans could have watched free of charge with an Apple log-in. Of course, that requires a smart TV and some kind of streaming device such as a Roku or Fire Stick. And that game was hardly the exception -- 20 Yankees game were carried exclusively by Amazon Prime Video this season.
For fans of a certain age and technological proficiency, this is not a problem. But for others, it might mean the difference between watching or not.
For the hosts of Audacy's Off-Air podcast, this viewing dynamic may not be the most straightforward, but it's not going to change in the foreseeable future.
"I'm sick and tired of hearing about it," said host Chris Arndt. "There's two options, guys. Get with the times, get a smartTV -- they're not expensive anymore -- get a Roku, get a Fire Stick. Or don't. I'm sick and tired of listening to sports talk radio and hearing people call in, and talk about 'the game is on Apple TV tonight,' or 'the game's on Amazon Prime, and I have to pay for it.' This is what it is, guys. I'm sorry to be harsh. I'm sorry to unpack this in such a blunt tone, but this is the future. This is what it is. It's a la carte. You've got to pay for this and that, you've got to pay for the things you want. And, eventually, everything's going digital. ..."
Co-host Steve Gagliano agreed:
"If you want to watch 162 games, it's not always going to be on your local [cable] provider. You're going to have to commit to finding those other ways to watching the games."
Like other leagues, MLB is increasingly leaning into streaming partnerships. This season, a weekly Sunday morning game was broadcast by Peacock, while YouTube continued its weekly Game of the Week Live. Apple TV+ launched Friday Night Baseball in September, in addition to carrying games throughout the regular season, while Prime Video had its deal with the Yankees. All of this in addition to MLB's longstanding broadcast deals with FOX and ESPN.
"It's pretty simple: this is how it is now," said Arndt. "You either adapt with the times, or you don't watch the games. ... It's not difficult to do. You just need to have a smart TV, and you need to be able to download an app on your TV. It's not rocket science. I think it's more about people being stubborn, and people not wanting to change -- people seeing any extra step or inconvenience to them as something that is blatantly unacceptable."
Meanwhile, the NFL's Thursday Night Football has gone exclusively to Prime Video.
"The thing with Prime, specifically, is ... I didn't know I had Amazon Prime. And then when the time came to sign in for the first Thursday Night Football game, I was talking to my wife, I was like 'We're not Amazon Prime members,' and she was like 'Oh yes we are.' So, I had it already."
For a lot of fans, this day has been years in the making. Many cable subscribers have long clamored for the option to cut the cord in the face of soaring bills and notoriously poor customer service.
With league-based season subscription services like MLB TV and NBA League Pass, complemented by the handful of aforementioned apps, a sports fan could conceivably watch most or all of their favorite team's games without a cable subscription, depending on blackout restrictions. Services such as YouTube TV can also fill the gaps.
Still, as those subscriptions add up, the savings may be negligible, and there can be technical difficulties with loading and buffering issues.
Though streaming is undoubtedly the wave of the future, it's not hard to see why some fans long for simpler times.