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MLS, Apple TV agree to 10-year coverage deal starting in 2023

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Major League Soccer will be heading to a new media platform starting in 2023 with a new partner entering a lengthy deal.

Apple TV and MLS agreed on a 10-year coverage plan on Tuesday, the first-ever partnership between the companies that will allow fans to stream every single MLS match through the Apple TV app, without local blackouts or restrictions. 

“We’re thinking about what is happening with the transition of sports viewership and fan engagement, going from what has been a traditional cable model over to what has become more of a streaming model,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a conference call with reporters. “Whether it’s entertainment or sports, fans are accessing their games in ways that are different than perhaps they did two, five years ago. And that’s going to be even more dramatic in the years to come.”

In addition to MLS matches, the partnership will include every Leagues Cup match, select MLS NEXT Pro and MLS NEXT matches, and is a one-stop shop for everything MLS-related. The new streaming service will be included as part of MLS full-season ticket packages for season-ticket members as a free service.

Apple TV will also televise a new weekly live match whip-around show, game replays, highlights, and analysis, and original programming, giving MLS fans a new place for everything regarding the league.

“That whip-around show will be as long as six hours because most of the games will start at 7 or 8 o’clock local, depending on when the club wants to have kickoff,” MLS Deputy Commissioner and President Gary Stevenson said. “But you can imagine what a Saturday night’s going to look like. It’s almost like Decision Day every single Saturday night where we’re in and out of games and there’s no more local restrictions. So the fan viewing experience is going to be very different.”

ESPN, ABC, and Fox Sports will remain the home for MLS regular season action during the 2022 season, with ESPN+’s streaming service also televising league matches.

Comments

  1. Key is how much Apple paid to get the rights. I would hope it’s significant enough to increase the salary cap, GAM, TAM, and whatever source of funds to attract more talent to make MLS one of the top leagues in the world.

    Reply
    • Apple apparently paid a “minimum” of $250 million per year, for 10 years, for a total of $2.5 billion. There’s 28 teams now and will certainly be 30-32 or more by deal’s end so it starts at $8.9 million per year per team…be interesting to see the particulars and if the deal grows as the league does. That’s better…but still less than a tenth what the Prem gets ($2.7 billion per year…divided among just 20 teams.)

      The old deal was $90 million per year between Fox and ESPN, which translated to $3.2 million per year per team. So that’s definitely a massive increase and will likely have a big effect on the cap…how much, I’d be curious to see. (The current cap is $4.9 million, but there’s an incremental increase in the CBA that advances to $7 million by 2027.)

      Personally I think the league needs to add another step…which is allowing teams to sell their unused DP slots for cold hard cash they can then apply to their own salary cap, or even just to bank if they want to re-invest it in Academy or infrastructure. I’ve proposed this awhile, but in essence that would allow the teams that can and want to spend bigger to do so…while essentially underwriting the costs of smaller-market teams that can’t afford the big-name DP’s (and wouldn’t attract them anyway because, say, Lionel Messi is not going to go to San Jose or Portland no matter how good those teams may be at the moment) to spend far more on larger numbers of mid-tier players. That would give the Seattles and Atlantas and NYCFC’s mostly big names in their starting 11’s…and bigger, deeper rosters of quality less-known players for the small-market squads, and still a lot of parity and a path to success for both.

      We can have a much, much better product second only probably to the Big-5 leagues on the field by 2026 when the eyes of the world are on North America, and we absolutely should move hard to get there.

      Reply
  2. This is exceedingly good news. The “partnership” with the trad cable providers never achieved the best outcome. The future is now. Let’s GO!

    Reply
    • The way Garber described it, it includes all games but this is only local, which turned national by streaming. National games of the week for traditional TV, still out for the bid.

      If I understand it correctly…seems huge. Big step forward.

      Reply

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