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Apple has sports ambitions, but not interested in streaming games

Sports within Apple's TV app

Apple appears to be making moves to try and change how people watch sports, as a report into how a small team working on the sports section of the Apple TV app and Apple TV interface operates indicates the iPhone maker may be lining up to disrupt another industry, though not by streaming sports

A team of a dozen employees work on the sports sections that appear in both tvOS and the TV app, spending their time monitoring as many major sporting events as possible to fill out the subsection with useful information fans may wish to know about. Made up of sports industry vets and at least one college athlete, the team try to predict what news is noteworthy and to send notifications to app users.

The behind-the-scenes look at the team's work by Sports Illustrated reveals the small team works in the same area as the Apple Music employees, in a conference room christened "The Sports Ball Room." Working over the last year, the team spend time updating the app in a room containing many different viewing devices, as well as a large whiteboard keeping track of upcoming events and the latest scores.

Ultimately the team works to curate the subcategory, though with the advent of machine learning, it is plausible the team could be teaching an algorithm what kind of information would be useful to a sports fan about a game, team, or player.

The timing of the report is barely a week before Apple's event on March 25, where it is anticipated to unveil new services, including Apple News subscriptions and a video streaming offering. The existence of the team suggests, while sports are not currently a major product area for Apple, it may expand its interest in the field to produce something more substantial, possibly even its own sports streaming service.

Outside the team, as well as some reporting under Apple News, Apple hasn't typically spent much effort on consumer-focused services relating to sports. While apps do exist for News, Weather, and Stocks, a similar app for sporting content has still yet to be made.

As for sportscasting, it is hinted at by Apple SVP of Internet software and services Eddy Cue that sporting content could have a bigger focus. While Apple doesn't have much interest in competing against Amazon and Facebook over exclusive rights to sporting events, Cue warns "that's not to say we would never do sports, because who the heck knows. Never is a long time, but I don't think that's a problem right now."

Cue pointed out to the report issues with sports rights, due to the high level of fragmentation between platforms and regions, which would interfere with the creation of any sportscasting service. "You really can't own the rights, so therefore at some point you need to solve some other problems," Cue mused, adding that Apple can't design for owning the rights as "if that's the only thing you're doing you're always going to be tiny."