Will Apple’s $2.5 billion deal transform Major League Soccer?

Apple and Major League Soccer (MLS) on Tuesday 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,1 and select MLS NEXT Pro and MLS NEXT matches in one place — without any local broadcast blackouts or the need for a traditional pay TV bundle.

Apple and Major League Soccer to present all MLS matches around the world for 10 years, beginning in 2023

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. In addition to all of the match content, the service will provide fans a new weekly live match whip-around show so they never miss an exciting goal or save, and also game replays, highlights, analysis, and other original programming. This live and on-demand MLS content will provide in-depth, behind-the-scenes views of the players and clubs that fans love. 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. As an added benefit to fans, access to the new MLS streaming service will be included as part of MLS full-season ticket packages.

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.

Graham Ruthven for The Guardian:

One wonders if anyone at Major League Soccer had the famous 1984 commercial for the Apple Macintosh playing through their mind as the league penned a $2.5bn deal to stream its games on Apple TV for the next 10 years. Indeed, the image of a sledgehammer crashing into a giant TV screen is a rather apt one to illustrate what the league has done with its new deal.

Fans will notice a difference. All matches will be played on Saturdays and Wednesdays. Local broadcasts will be a thing of the past. So too will blackouts – every single match will be available in every state (and every country) on Apple TV. Matches will be broadcast in 1080p (many of the current broadcasts are in 720p and 1080i) and will come with a local radio audio option.

While Apple has an agreement with MLB to show Friday Night Baseball, its new MLS deal is the biggest live sports deal the company has ever struck. Live MLS games will form an important part of Apple TV’s content strategy. Indeed, Apple may be counting on benefiting from the ‘World Cup bump’ that is anticipated in 2026, when Canada, Mexico and the USA co-host the tournament. It may also be anticipating the rumoured arrival of Lionel Messi in MLS at some point in the future. Whatever the working behind the equation, Apple clearly believes MLS will boost the value of its streaming service. That says something about the league’s standing in the North American sports landscape.

MacDailyNews Take: The answer to the headline is: “Yes!”

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  1. It might be a matter of time before Apple ventures into the multi-billion dollar global soccer industry. Would be great to see them buy an English Premier League club. Amazon is getting involved as are numerous other American sports tycoons (as are Mid-East rulers – Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, through “companies”, already own top English clubs). Apple buying a top English club would be a paradigm-changing move, with potential to boost revenues by billions not just for Apple but for the whole soccer industry. These top clubs don’t come cheap – forget it if you are a “mere” multi-millionaire – but Apple has the cash.

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