Years of exhausting negotiations have finally come to fruition as Major League Soccer and Apple penned a multi-billion deal over streaming rights.
As per The Guardian, Apple TV will stream the MLS games for the next ten years after agreeing on a staggering $2.5bn deal with the United States Soccer Federation.
Going back to 2019, the league handed specific instructions to clubs not to sign local deals beyond 2022, suggesting this new arrangement was long in the making.
The intent behind that instruction is now plain for everyone to see as MLS prepares to go astray from conventional streaming methods to increase the income from TV rights.
As per the new deal, Apple will fork out $250m a year to kick the likes of ESPN, Fox and Univision out of business.
The league’s previous contract with the three media conglomerates was worth $90m a year.
MLS commissioner Don Garber went public to announce his excitement about the new deal.
“When we started out this process, we had a logo on the whiteboard, and that logo was the Apple logo,” he said.
With MLS switching to Apple TV, fans may notice a difference.
Unlike the league’s hectic schedule thus far, all matches will be played on Saturdays and Wednesdays from now on.
Blackouts will be a thing of the past, as every fixture will be available in every state in the United States and Canada via Apple TV.
There will also be an enhancement in the quality. Games will be broadcast in 1080p, in contrast to the current 720p and 1080i formats.
MLS season-ticket holders will be particularly happy to know they will receive access to the service free of charge.
The Apple agreement is not the first time MLS has partnered with soccer streaming sites, as witnessed by the league’s deal with ESPN+ dating back to 2018.
As for Apple, the MLS deal is the biggest live sports deal the company has ever made.
However, there is a downside.
The decision to put all matches on a streaming service and behind a paywall will impact the league’s overall viewership.
So it comes as no surprise MLS has declined to turn its back on traditional TV.
The league is still negotiating with linear broadcasters to keep some matches on the big screen.
How could Apple benefit from the deal?
The MLS expansion anticipated in 2023 that will see the competition feature as many as 29 teams should form a significant part of Apple TV’s content.
There is no doubt that MLS has the potential to bolster the value of Apple’s streaming service in the future.
In addition to Lionel Messi’s rumoured switch across the Atlantic at some point in the future, there is an expected ‘World Cup bump.’
Indeed, the most prestigious soccer event in the world that will be co-hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico in 2026 should generate more viewers.
One thing is certain – MLS hopes that Apple could help them grow the same Sky aided the Premier League’s rise to stardom.
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