by Jason Snell
Apple inks 10-year deal with Major League Soccer
Another sports franchise is headed to Apple’s streaming efforts, as the company has announced that it’s signed a 10-year deal with Major League Soccer:
Apple and Major League Soccer (MLS) today announced that the Apple TV app will be the exclusive destination to watch every single live MLS match beginning in 2023. This partnership is a historic first for a major professional sports league, and will allow fans around the world to watch all MLS, Leagues Cup,1 and select MLS NEXT Pro and MLS NEXT matches in one place — without any local broadcast blackouts or the need for a traditional pay TV bundle.
From early 2023 through 2032, fans can get every live MLS match by subscribing to a new MLS streaming service, available exclusively through the Apple TV app. In addition to all of the match content, the service will provide fans a new weekly live match whip-around show so they never miss an exciting goal or save, and also game replays, highlights, analysis, and other original programming. This live and on-demand MLS content will provide in-depth, behind-the-scenes views of the players and clubs that fans love. 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. As an added benefit to fans, access to the new MLS streaming service will be included as part of MLS full-season ticket packages.
The interesting things to note in this announcement:
- It’s “exclusive” for “every single live MLS match.” It’s unclear from the release if there will be linear broadcasts of MLS games—the rights deal doesn’t include them!—but if there are, they’ll also be on this new service. It gets them all, no blackouts. We’ll see what the market for non-exclusive MLS rights is.
Note that this is not a “free with Apple TV+” deal. There will be a “new MLS streaming service, available exclusively through the Apple TV app.” It sounds a bit like Apple’s Channels subscription model, except this is a channel that is only available via Apple. (Some games will be free, and some available to TV+ subscribers, but the bulk will be behind this specific paywall.)
Throw in the rumors that Apple has also bought the rights to NFL Sunday Ticket beginning next year, and it’s becoming clear that Apple is dead serious about dragging live sports away from being last bastion of cable TV and into a streaming future. (It also suggests that, should that NFL Sunday Ticket deal happen, it will probably also be a “new streaming service” on top of Apple TV+.)
International soccer fans may scoff at MLS, but it’s growing fast in a valuable market, and the 2026 World Cup in North America will stoke more interest. It’s also a league small enough for Apple to write a check and get its entire content for a decade.