Apple has entered into a long-term partnership with Major League Soccer (MLS) to stream all its games globally. The 10-year, $2.5 billion deal is unique in that it is not just a media rights deal. Apple and MLS are partnering in building a subscription streaming service for MLS and sharing the revenues, with Apple guaranteeing a minimum of $250 million per year paid to MLS.
As part of the agreement, Apple will stream some MLS games for free on its Apple TV app and a larger slate of games will be available with its Apple TV+ subscription service.
Apple will also develop a streaming platform, in partnership with MLS, that will stream all games with no geographic blackouts. Games will feature English and Spanish language broadcasts, as well as French broadcasts for games featuring teams from Canada. The new platform will also feature other related content, including a highlight-focused whip-around show that presents goals and key moments from games around the league. Little else is known about the new streaming service. No name or pricing information has been released, though it will be available for free as a perk with MLS full-season ticket packages.
MLS also retains the rights to reach additional non-exclusive licensing agreements with over-the-air television or cable networks like NBC, Fox, or ESPN. Any games shown via these networks, however, would also be available on the new streaming platform.
The MLS deal was attractive to Apple because it includes all games for all teams with no regional blackouts, and because of the younger, tech-savvy fans that MLS boasts. Interpret’s VideoWatch shows that MLS fans are significantly younger than other US-based major sports leagues and they are more likely to be interested in being the first to try new technology products that come to market.
The MLS agreement is a further indicator of the importance live sports plays in entertainment media. With television and home movie content going more to time-shifted streaming, live sports still attract mass viewers at the same time. It represents Apple’s biggest push yet into live sports, but not their first. Prior to the 2022 season, Apple added Friday Night Baseball in conjunction with Major League Baseball – an offering of two games every Friday night during the season which are shown for free on Apple TV+. It also likely will not be its last push into live sports. Apple also submitted a bid, along with Amazon and Disney, for the new Sunday Ticket package to broadcast out-of-market NFL games.