Football: Apple wins the MLS game

By getting its hands on North American football, Apple is strengthening both in its streaming offer (regularly criticized for being less rich than that of its competitors) and in the face of its main rivals who also bet on sport: Amazon Prime , Netflix and Disney’s ESPN+. For the current MLS season, which ends in November, the league’s broadcast partners include ABC and ESPN, FOX and Fox Sports, and Univision. From the beginning of 2023 until the end of 2032, fans will have access to football matches (soccer in the United States) by subscribing to a new MLS streaming service available only through the Apple TV app.

According to US media, Apple paid $2.5 billion, or about $250 million per season, to secure the worldwide rights to distribute the matches. What makes Eddie Cue, Apple’s vice president of services, say  » It’s a first. And it’s a huge opportunity for both of us, because it’s a partnership. This is not a rights agreement. »

The deal is a strategic opportunity for the group led by Tim Cook: Major League Soccer is the fastest growing football league in the world, having more than doubled in size to 29 clubs in the past 15 years. This momentum will continue as football expands across North America in preparation for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico. With players representing 82 countries, MLS has the most international player pool in any sport, and its fanbase is one of the youngest and most diverse audiences in North American sport.

A wide selection of matches from MLS and Leagues Cup, an annual competition between MLS and Liga MX clubs, will be available to Apple TV subscribers. A limited number of matches will be available for free on Apple TV, which can be viewed by anyone with internet access. Commentary will be available in English, Spanish and French for Canadian matches. Last benefit for season ticket holders: access to the new MLS streaming service will be included in MLS full season ticket packages.

It is therefore a new chapter in the history of Apple TV+ which is opening and which confirms that streamers are applying strategies that are increasingly similar to those of linear broadcasters. The sports battle hasn’t started as streamers are already scoring.

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