In really interesting news for sports fans, Apple has reached a ten-year deal with Major League Soccer to present all MLS matches around the world for 10 years, beginning in 2023. It’s going to mean sports fans will be able to stream every match through the Apple TV app, without any local blackouts or restrictions.
What’s the score?
Apple calls the partnership, “a historic first for a major professional sports league”, which to my mind implies it hopes to reach a few more similar deals. It reached a deal to broadcast MLB Baseball earlier this year.
It is also interesting to note that Apple has reached this deal as interest in soccer across the US and Canada is set to increase over the coming few years. It will increase in the run up to the 2026 FIFA World Cup hosted by the US, Canada, and Mexico.
At time of writing, MLS is the fastest-growing soccer league in the world, more than doubling in size to 29 clubs over the last 15 years. With players representing 82 countries, MLS has the most global player pool in all sports, and its fan base is one of the youngest, most diverse audiences in North American sports.
What to expect
Apple’s deal extends to all MLS, Leagues Cup and select MLS NEXT Pro and MLS NEXT matches – but there are a few caveats to even the score:
- From early 2023 through 2032, fans can get every live MLS match by subscribing to a new MLS streaming service through the Apple TV app.
- The service will provide fans a new weekly live match round up with in-depth, behind-the-scenes views of the players and clubs.
- 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.
- A limited number of matches available for free.
- 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 that support the app. Fans can also watch on tv.apple.com.
What Apple says
“For the first time in the history of sports, fans will be able to access everything from a major professional sports league in one place,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Services.
“It’s a dream come true for MLS fans, soccer fans, and anyone who loves sports. No fragmentation, no frustration — just the flexibility to sign up for one convenient service that gives you everything MLS, anywhere and anytime you want to watch. We can’t wait to make it easy for even more people to fall in love with MLS and root for their favorite club.”
What MLS says
“Apple is the perfect partner to further accelerate the growth of MLS and deepen the connection between our clubs and their fans,” said Don Garber, MLS’s commissioner. “Given Apple’s ability to create a best-in-class user experience and to reach fans everywhere, it’ll be incredibly easy to enjoy MLS matches anywhere, whether you’re a super fan or casual viewer.”
More information follows
At launch, all MLS and Leagues Cup matches will include announcers calling the action in English and Spanish, and all matches involving Canadian teams will be available in French. Apple and MLS will also provide enhanced league and club coverage for fans to easily follow the league or their favorite clubs in Apple News, with the ability to watch highlights right in the News app.
Complete details for the new service, including when fans can sign up, subscription pricing, specific details about the new MLS programming, an improved match schedule, broadcast teams, production enhancements, pre and postgame coverage and other ways in which to enjoy MLS content across the Apple ecosystem will be announced in the coming months.
I think this is one of many deals to anticipate from Apple as it seeks to build out its Apple TV offering with increased relevance and searches for new opportunities with which to meld its tech into daily life. Sports are, after all, a great medium for engaged and augmented viewing experiences.
Back in 2019, Apple’s services chief, Eddy Cue, talked a little on the topic. He discussed making key sporting moments more discoverable, and the need for highly personalized services to help you find what you most want to watch.
I think you got to watch this space.
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