For decades, baseball fans could count on the NBC Game of the Week to provide coverage of teams they couldn’t normally watch.
Then, Major League Baseball disappeared from the network for more than two decades.
Until this Sunday.
For one week, NBC will air baseball (the Chicago White Sox vs. the Boston Red Sox). After that, the company will move its exclusive Sunday-morning window – secured in the league’s latest media rights deal – to Peacock, the NBC subscription streaming service.
“We found this unique sort of situation where you have an exclusive window on Sunday mornings for what effectively becomes the game of the week for us,” Peacock executive vice president and chief commercial officer Rick Cordella said on a media teleconference on Wednesday.
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White Sox play-by-play broadcaster Jason Benetti, who also calls baseball and basketball for ESPN, has been hired to lead all 18 games for NBC. Benetti will be joined by a rotating cast of analysts, one from each team participating in the Sunday showcase. That choice differs from the Apple TV+ decision to create new broadcasting crews for its Friday night games.
“To me there is something really youthful and engaging about morning baseball and day baseball, and especially at a different time,” Benetti said. “I couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of this for those multiple reasons, and of course being the White Sox announcer, getting to start with a White Sox game at Fenway Park, one of the greatest ballparks in this country, is an added bonus.”
Catering to a younger audience – there are plans to incorporate similar musical and graphic themes from the past for those seeking nostalgia – is an obvious goal of putting MLB on a streaming service. Peacock added four million paying subscribers during the first quarter of 2022, according to an April earnings call, bringing that total to 13 million accounts.
Other streaming services’ success in the weekend-morning window (think Premier League) influenced the decision as well, Cordella said.
“There’s so many things that happen within a game that are cool,” said Ahmed Fareed, who will lead the pregame and studio coverage. “These athletes are as good as they have ever been … and we can incorporate some of the highlights, the sights and sounds from people playing baseball from all over the country.”
The analysts accompanying Fareed on the pregame show will also rotate, starting with former New York Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher on Sunday.
“We like the fact that we can lean in with our talent selections each week and do things a little bit differently and not be the norm,” NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood said. “We’re going to try and do things differently. We’re looking at this differently, thus the booth, thus the idea of leaning into the two local teams. All of that combined to create we believe a unique viewing experience for the fan, and hopefully they enjoy it as much as we enjoy creating the content.”
After the first six Sundays, games will move to noon first pitches. Other MLB games cannot start until 1:30 p.m. at the earliest to provide an exclusive window, which ends Sept. 4.
A complete list of the game times and matchups is below.
NBC/Peacock Sunday Baseball Matchups
(all times Eastern)
May 8, 11:30 a.m.: Chicago White Sox at Boston Red Sox
May 15, 11:30 a.m.: San Diego Padres at Atlanta Braves
May 22, 11:30 a.m.: St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates
May 29, 11:30 a.m.: San Francisco Giants at Cincinnati Reds
June 5, 11:30 a.m.: Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees
June 12, 11:30 a.m.: Oakland Athletics at Cleveland Guardians
June 19, Noon: Philadelphia Phillies at Washington Nationals
June 26, Noon: New York Mets at Miami Marlins
July 3, Noon: Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers
July 10, Noon: Los Angeles Angels at Baltimore Orioles
July 17, Noon: Kansas City Royals at Toronto Blue Jays
July 24, Noon: Chicago Cubs at Philadelphia Phillies
July 31, Noon: Detroit Tigers at Toronto Blue Jays
August 7, Noon: Houston Astros at Cleveland Guardians
August 14, Noon: San Diego Padres at Washington Nationals
August 21, Noon: Chicago White Sox at Cleveland Guardians
August 28, Noon: Los Angeles Dodgers at Miami Marlins
September 4, Noon: Toronto Blue Jays at Pittsburgh Pirates
Contributing: Associated Press
Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLB returns to NBC, Peacock on Sunday mornings in exclusive window