Cable television took a major hit on Tuesday as Apple and Major League Soccer (MLS) announced that the Apple TV app will be the exclusive destination to watch every single live MLS match beginning in 2023. This partnership is a historic first for a major professional sports league, and will allow fans around the world to watch all MLS, Leagues Cup (an annual association football competition between clubs from Major League Soccer and Liga MX in North America), and select MLS NEXT Pro and MLS NEXT (youth and developmental leagues) matches in one place — without any local broadcast blackouts or the need for a traditional pay TV bundle.
From early 2023 through 2032, fans can get every live MLS match by subscribing to a new MLS streaming service, available exclusively through the Apple TV app. A broad selection of MLS and Leagues Cup matches, including some of the biggest matchups, will also be available at no additional cost to Apple TV+ subscribers, with a limited number of matches available for free.
The MLS live and on-demand content on the Apple TV app will be available to anyone with internet access across all devices where the app can be found, including iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple TV 4K, and Apple TV HD; Samsung, LG, Panasonic, Sony, TCL, VIZIO, and other smart TVs; Amazon Fire TV and Roku devices; PlayStation and Xbox gaming consoles; Chromecast with Google TV; and Comcast Xfinity. Fans can also watch on tv.apple.com.
Major League Soccer dwells just outside the rarified popular sports neighborhood occupied by the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, and college football and basketball. But even with MLS’s relative lack of popularity compared to the other leagues, this announcement from Apple is a Very Big Deal.
Live sports is by far the top reason millions of people have yet to cut the cord, severing their ties to cable companies and satellite TV providers. That’s merely because the easiest way to follow your hometown team—outside of the NFL, which has all of its games free to air in local markets — is to subscribe to your local cable company or a satellite provider. Those are the folks who carry the regional sports network that has the rights to broadcast your local teams…
For the first time, an MLS fan can watch all of their favorite team’s matches without a cable subscription. That’s huge because this is the first time this has been the case for any major American sports league.
MacDailyNews Take: This Apple + MLS deal is a tectonic shift in sports media landscape. Other major sports leagues will follow, cutting out cable in some form or another. (There’s no word yet on how much this MLS subscription will cost. Expect that news to come later.)
Survey data indicates the average MLS fan is 39.6 years old and that Generation Z and Millennials account for 58% of its fan base. Apple’s MLS deal will start next season, coinciding with a restructuring of the MLS schedule that will see most regular-season matches played on Saturday nights. Having a series of matches on Saturday nights with staggered start times will allow the league to offer a whip-around show akin to NFL Red Zone through its new streaming service and Apple TV+…
MLS execs said that Apple is not paying a straight rights fee for the package of rights. Rather, Apple is paying a minimum guarantee that sources say is worth $250M per year starting in ‘23. MLS will start to bring in more revenue as Apple sell subscriptions for a newly launched MLS subscription offering. “What’s different here is traditionally media companies pay rights fees, and you sell ads,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “This is a partnership. And that partnership’s core is a subscription business that we’re going to build together, and we’re going to get a guarantee against the revenues that will be achieved on the subscription business. Then, we go over those guarantees, we’ll have the opportunity to make more money, which is really unique in sports media.”
MacDailyNews Take: Prior to this blockbuster deal, MLS was hoping for a $300 million/year TV rights deal (up from the current $90 million deal).
Instead, MLS got a guaranteed $250M/yr. for a decade (base, could be more depending on subscriptions, and certainly not bad vs. $90M/yr.) and Apple dramatically altered yet another market’s landscape yet again. Sports universe dented.
Apple can invest $2.5 billion per decade until the Tuesday after infinity without even noticing.
Cook should consider bidding for and winning NFL Sunday Ticket away from Direct TV, buying rights to Premiere League and La Liga games, etc. and making them Apple TV exclusives. Go directly to the sports leagues with boatloads of cash. — MacDailyNews, May 6, 2014
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