- Apple TV+ subscribers to get access to ‘broad selection’ of MLS matches at no additional cost
- MLS fans with full season tickets get access to Apple platform included
- League reportedly in talks with Fox and ESPN over non-exclusive linear rights package
Technology giants Apple have made their first foray into live soccer broadcasting after striking a long-term global partnership with Major League Soccer (MLS) worth a reported US$250 million per year.
After moving for a package of Major League Baseball (MLB matches earlier this year, Apple has made their biggest sports rights acquisition to date by signing a ten-year partnership with MLS to show all matches across the world via the Apple TV streaming platform.
The agreement kicks in next season and runs through until the end of the 2032 campaign, will see every match offered through a new, MLS-dedicated subscription streaming service available exclusively through the Apple TV app. The over-the-top (OTT) offering will also include a weekly live whiparound show, full-match replays, highlights, analysis, and other original programming. A number of MLS Next Pro and MLS Next developmental tier matches will also be on the platform.
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. Access to the new MLS streaming service will also be included as part of full-season ticket packages.
According to the Sports Business Journal (SBJ), MLS is also negotiating with ESPN and Fox around a linear domestic package of non-exclusive matches. In addition, SBJ report that Apple is not paying a straight fee, with the US$250 million per year figure being a minimum annual guarantee that will be topped up with revenue as Apple sell subscriptions for the streaming service.
MLS commissioner Don Garber believes that Apple TV will provide the catalyst for the ever-improving competition to grow even further.
“This (partnership) sort of seems like a bit of the icing on the cake,” the MLS commissioner told the PA news agency.
“We really have been very focused on building a league that we all can be proud of, that could become one of the top leagues in the world, that could show fans here and globally that America, North America, are soccer markets.
“And now with a global opportunity to build a fan base with the leader in global product and global technology and global innovation, it’s going to allow us to expand beyond our borders.
“This gives us the ability to participate not only in the global market for players but on the global market for fans, and that any game, anytime, anywhere without restrictions really is the rocket fuel that’s going to get us to that point.
“So, it is the perfect sort of end to the previous beginning and gives us a new sort of journey towards the World Cup and beyond.”
Garber said MLS is “very pleased with the financials” of a deal that, among other things, will allow for an improved schedule, better quality broadcasts and see season ticket holders at the clubs receive a subscription.
This is just Apple’s second rights deal for live sports having acquired a package with Major League Baseball in March, but they have achieved great success in football with their comedy-drama Ted Lasso.
Apple’s senior vice president of services Eddy Cue believes this unique partnership is a “huge, huge opportunity for both of us to do something great”.
“Look, it’s a huge moment for sports,” Cue told the PA news agency. “It’s a dream come true for fans.
“It’s truly the first time ever that fans can access everything – every game from a major professional sports league in one place. There’s no blackouts, no restrictions. It’s going to be incredibly fun.
“We’re excited about the viewing experience we can bring. I can guarantee you it’s going to reflect Apple’s style of dedication that we have to great customer experience, so we’re excited to share more of that as details come about.
“We’re also committed to growing the sport of soccer with MLS.
“It’s already the fastest growing sport in North America and we’re really excited about having people fall in love with MLS, rooting for their favourite club.
“When you look, it’s only going to get bigger: the World Cup is coming to the US, Canada and Mexico in 2026.”
Apple’s move into soccer will attract the interest of competitions across the globe given the company has long been linked with a move into the live rights arena.
Cue says there is “nothing certainly to talk about beyond” the MLS deal right now but said the company “want to bring the best content that we can in a way that only that we can do”.
Pushed on whether Apple would do further deals within soccer in the future, he said: “I never say never to anything from that standpoint, but it’s not that we’re actively trying to do and find things.
“We’re trying to find unique opportunities and I think MLS is in that position in a huge way and what we’re doing together I think is unprecedented and I’m truly, truly excited about what we’re going to build.”