What are the top 5 streaming sports add-ons for Chicago fans?

What are the top 5 streaming sports add-ons for Chicago fans?

Major League Baseball is back on Apple TV+, and fans from Walla Walla, Washington, to Kalamazoo are asking a simple question: Why?

Why does MLB put select Friday night games behind an online paywall, inconveniencing its fans and forcing them to pay again for a product they already pay for on their TV bill?

Baseball will tell you it’s to reach younger fans who are tethered to their devices, and that’s true. More immediately, it’s another revenue source. Apple is in the third year of a reported seven-year, $85 million deal with MLB, which must like that stability as it watches regional sports networks adapt to a changing media landscape.

All of this is to remind you that in two of the next three weeks, you’ll need Apple TV+ to watch the Cubs and White Sox. On Friday, the Cubs visit the Mariners, and on April 26, the Sox host the Rays. Apple TV+ costs $9.99 per month, but it gives you a seven-day free trial. To promote the baseball package, Apple TV+ also is offering a deal with two months free.

Free is good. MLB on Apple TV+ was free at the start of the contract, though that inevitably was going to end. The question is whether it’s worth paying $9.99 per month for a handful of Cubs and Sox games in addition to the regional sports fee charged by your TV provider. For Comcast customers, that’s $19.20 per month for a lot more games.

Granted, Apple TV+ gives you much more than just baseball for that 10 bucks, though its library of programming pales in comparison to that of Netflix and Prime Video. But this is a sports-media column. Does the sports menu on Apple TV+ make it worth your while to subscribe? Which streaming services offer the most live sports of interest in our area at the best price?

As we’re prone to do, we ranked the top five streaming sports add-ons based on that criteria (live-TV services such as Hulu and YouTube are not included):

1. ESPN+

Cost: $10.99 per month.

Highlights: Tons of exclusive content, including in- and out-of-market NHL games, access to UFC pay-per-views, college sports, international soccer, golf and an NFL game.

Skinny: The Blackhawks appear exclusively on ESPN+ several times a season, and getting more than 1,000 out-of-market NHL games is a nice perk for hockey fans. ESPN+ is a must-have for UFC fans and college basketball junkies. It carries a lot of Loyola and UIC games. ESPN+ also is the home of PGA Tour Live, which lets viewers choose how to watch events. It’s a bit pricey, but you get a ton.

2. Peacock

Cost: $5.99 per month.

Highlights: Exclusives include Big Ten basketball and football, Premier League soccer, WWE, golf, auto racing, horse racing and a Notre Dame and NFL game.

Skinny: Peacock is a must-have in Big Ten country. As part of NBC’s deal with the conference, the network can air basketball and football games exclusively on Peacock, and not just the bad ones. Peacock also carries every Premier League match and WWE premium live event, and it will air the Packers-Eagles game Sept. 6 in Brazil. It no longer carries Sunday morning MLB games.

3. Prime Video

Cost: $8.99 per month; $14.99 per month with Amazon Prime.

Highlights: Prime is the home of the NFL’s “Thursday Night Football,” but it’s not required to watch the Bears, whose “TNF” games air on local broadcast TV. Prime will air a wild-card playoff game exclusively next season. It also renewed its deal as the WNBA’s national streamer, granting it 21 exclusive games.

Skinny: Prime could jump Peacock in local relevance if it gets a package of NBA games in the league’s next rights deal, which will begin in 2025. That could take some Bulls games off the local RSN, whether that’s NBC Sports Chicago or its next iteration. As it stands, Prime Video is a wonderful perk of being an Amazon Prime member, but it’s not yet a necessity for sports fans here.

4. Paramount+

Cost: $5.99 per month.

Highlights: Soccer, and lots of it. CBS’ Paramount+ is the only place in the country to stream UEFA matches, including the Champions League. It also exclusively carries CONCACAF matches and international leagues, including the Italian Serie A league

Skinny: Paramount has been in the news a lot lately for its efforts to merge with Skydance Media. It’s too early to know how that would affect its sports properties, but there’s not much local appeal here anyway — although it’s frustrating when CBS sticks U.S. soccer games behind Paramount’s paywall.

5. Apple TV+

Cost: $9.99 per month.

Highlights: Apple airs two exclusive MLB games on Friday nights and carries every MLS game through the postseason.

Skinny: MLS Season Pass does not come with an Apple TV+ subscription, like NHL Power Play does with ESPN+. MLS Season Pass costs an additional $12.99 per month for Apple TV+ subscribers and $14.99 per month for nonsubscribers. It’s a must-have for Fire fans. Cubs and Sox fans can listen to the radio.

Remote patrol

The Score afternoon co-host Danny Parkins’ first book, “Pipeline to the Pros,” will be released Tuesday. It explores the trend of NBA coaches and executives coming from small colleges and the profound impact they’ve had on basketball and the league.

• First-time author Ken Smoller’s book “Last Comiskey,” an adaptation of Matt Flesch’s 2023 documentary, will be released in May. It serves as a companion piece, combining Smoller’s photographs from the 1990 White Sox season, content from the film and new material.

• Play-by-play voice Wayne Randazzo, analyst Dontrelle Willis and reporter Heidi Watney will call the Cubs-Mariners game Friday night on Apple TV+.

• ESPN selected the Bulls-Knicks game Sunday for its final regular-season doubleheader, but it still will appear on NBC Sports Chicago.

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