MLS approves 10-year streaming deal with Apple worth $2.5 billion: Sources

Major League Soccer has agreed a new 10-year streaming agreement with Apple that multiple industry sources tie for $2.5 billion. The sources granted anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the financial terms of the deal.

Apple TV+ will broadcast every MLS and Leagues Cup game as part of the deal. Sources said the league is leaving space in the broadcast schedule for line partners as well, and that ESPN and Univision are expected to reach agreements to broadcast MLS matches via television in the near future. The Sports Business Journal reported on Tuesday that the league is still in negotiations with Fox as well. Any matches broadcast on ESPN, Fox, Univision, or other linear networks will also be shown on Apple TV+.

The league’s current media rights agreement with ESPN, Univision and Fox is set to expire after this season.

Apple TV+ matches will not be shown on local TV networks, which means MLS fans will need to subscribe to the live streaming service to watch their teams on a weekly basis. MLS games will live inside a specific app on Apple TV+; MLS full season ticket holders will be able to access the app at no additional charge.

Apple will also broadcast a number of regular season games with private labels, similar to the company’s treatment of MLB “Friday Night Baseball” games. Until now, MLB games have been available to watch without the need for an Apple TV+ subscription. MLS has announced that a limited number of matches will be available at no additional cost to Apple TV + subscribers.

The sources added that MLS will produce and pay for production costs for the matches shown on Apple TV +. The sources said there is a chance that the league will only hire one group of commentators for Apple TV + matches, which would be a departure from each team that has its own commentary team for all locally televised matches in the current deal. Streams on Apple TV+ will also include pre-game shows, halftime shows, and post-game shows, as well as a great deal of non-game programming.

Apple TV+ matches will not be subject to the blackout restrictions, a change from the league’s current broadcast deal with ESPN+.

The sources said that ESPN and Univision families will likely end up broadcasting slightly fewer games than the current media rights agreement. ESPN is set to broadcast 34 regular season games across its channels this year; Univision is set to show 32 regular season competitions.

ESPN, Univision and Fox are paying a total of $90 million per season in the current agreement, which sources said $65 million has been received by MLS. The remaining $25 million goes to the NFL, which has contracted MLS-owned Soccer United Marketing (SUM) to sell broadcast rights to its matches. USSF split from SUM and sold its broadcast rights this spring to Turner Sports in an eight-year deal worth $25 million annually.

(Photo: Jon Jones/USA TODAY Sports)

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