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Major League Soccer (MLS) struck a 10-year media rights deal with Apple Tuesday for Apple TV to become the home for all MLS and Leagues Cup matches, as well as select MLS Next Pro matches beginning in 2023.
MLS commissioner Don Garber declined to reveal the economics of the deal to Sports Illustrated, but said it’s a unique deal in that both parties will be incentivized to grow the business. Sports Business Journal reports that Apple’s guarantee to MLS will be $250 million per year.
“Think about Apple and what they’ve done to sort of be ubiquitous in our lives in ways that really matter to us with great products, with news and information, with music,” Garber said, via Sports Illustrated. “And when we were setting up what our new media strategy would look like … this idea of taking our local games, taking all of our games that traditionally were on linear networks, taking our games that we would sell globally, and then taking all the content that we’re producing over the years … and aggregating all of that into one package and trying to deliver that to one partner that can make it easy for our fans to access everything that they love about the game.”
There is currently no linear partner as in an ESPN, Fox, etc. to broadcast games. If a linear partner becomes part of the deal, those games would be simulcasted on Apple, however. Most notably, the package includes no local blackouts or restrictions — welcome news for MLS fans. Pricing options and subscriptions are still being worked out by the parties. MLS full-season ticket holders will receive a complimentary subscription.
Garber said the goal of the partnership is to increase the league’s fanbase, which has struggled to gain a consistent audience on ESPN, Fox and Univision. Per Sportico, MLS averaged 285,000 viewers on nationally televised matches across the three networks in 2021.
MLS will look to capitalize on its youthful, streaming-heavy fanbase with the deal. Garber said that 83% of the league’s fans watch sports on a streaming device or recorded TV. That’s compared to 52% of the general population.
“This relationship is going to help us grow our fan base,” Garber said. “We’re trying to build a global fan base. And to do that with a partner that’s not just going to put a game on the air, but is going to work to be able to engage that fan through their unique understanding of content, of programming of technology. I mean, think of how they’ve transformed the music business.
“Think of how they’ve transformed the news business. And we’re thinking that we could work with them to help transform our fan base so that ultimately, we can grow our audience.”
Apple has continued to grow its footing in the live sports market, having struck a deal with MLB ahead of the 2022 season to host “Friday Night Baseball” on the app each week. The game is free to watch with an Apple ID and does not require a purchase or subscription.
4 CommentsLeave a Reply
One would think if a league that is trying to attract more fans wouldn’t want to go to Apple or Amazon. I guess cord cutting is the wave of the future though so what do I know.
If this is leading to where I think it’s leading to, that essentially means the end of “local” announce teams for all MLS regular season games.
Rob ManChild thinks Don Garber’s scheme with Apple TV is idiocracy at it’s worst.
To go forward with a streaming only scheme without any linear TV access (FOX, the Four Letter Nitwits, Turner, etc.) is half baked and will only alienate local MLS supporters.
This move would be similar to the USFL putting their games behind a paywalll. The product should have been so popular that most fans WANT to pay to see games on TV. MSL isn’t that popular on a national scale yet.
Given how crappy the AppleTV baseball announcing team is, the soccer will probably be worse.