Apple and Major League Soccer (MLS) today announced that the Apple TV app will offer streaming video for every MLS game over the next 10 years.
Apple claims that viewers “around the world” can “watch all the MLS, Leagues Cup, and select MLS NEXT Pro and MLS NEXT matches in one place — without any local broadcast blackout or the need for a traditional pay-TV package.”
This will all be part of the new “MLS Streaming Service” that will be available in early 2023, with matches being offered through 2032. It will offer both live and on-demand video.
A blog post on the Apple newsroom website appears to indicate that while the service will be exclusive to the Apple TV app, it will be billed separately from the Apple TV+ streaming service. However, a limited number of MLS and League Cup matches will be available for free to Apple TV+ subscribers.
The post also notes that buyers of full season MLS ticket packages will get free access to the entire MLS streaming service.
When you tune in, you’ll have the choice between English or Spanish broadcasters for all matches – and there will be a French option for all matches that includes Canadian teams as well.
Neither Apple nor MLS has announced a more specific launch date for the service, and the pricing remains ambiguous.
Obviously, the Apple TV app is available on Apple devices like Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV. But it has also made its way to other devices, including PlayStation, Xbox, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, and many more major smart TV brands. This isn’t Apple’s first foray into sports streaming. It’s been part of the Apple TV strategy in one way or another for a while, but the company ramped up its plans with regular Friday night Major League Baseball (MLB) streams earlier this year.
Why this makes ESPN and regional sports networks nervous
Major League Soccer resides outside the famous, rare sports district occupied by NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, college football and basketball. But even with the relative lack of popularity of MLS compared to other leagues, this announcement from Apple is a pretty big deal.
Live sports is by far the main reason why millions of people are cutting the rope, severing ties with cable companies and satellite TV providers. That’s just because the easiest way to follow your hometown team — outside of the NFL, which offers all of their games for free in local markets — is to sign up for your local cable company or satellite service provider. These are the people who hold the regional sports network that have the right to broadcast your local teams. For the Chicagoan who wants to catch all the Bulls, Blackhawks, Cubs, White Sox, Fire and Red Stars games, their only options to catch the action are Marquee Sports Network and NBC Sports Chicago, both of which require a cable or satellite TV subscription.
For the first time, MLS fans can watch all the matches of their favorite team without a cable subscription. This is huge because this is a file This was the case for the first time For any major American sports league. Sure, MLB and NBA offer their own streaming services, but there are significant limitations. You cannot watch your local team on NBA League Pass; You need a cable subscription for that. You cannot watch national broadcasts on NBA League Pass; You need a cable subscription for games that are not streamed. and so on.
Apple TV is changing that paradigm with today’s announcement. If you’re a die-hard Columbus fan and want to watch your beloved cast anywhere, anytime, you have a new option that doesn’t include Comcast or DirecTV. And if you’re just holding the cable so you can watch the crew, that’s a lot cheaper.
Apple and MLS have done something remarkable here. With the NFL currently negotiating with a few streaming services to serve out-of-market Sunday tickets and the NCAA’s Big Ten Conference in the process of selling its next media rights package, the next big deal could end up cutting cable altogether. According to John Orand in Sports Business MagazineApple is paying somewhere in the range of $2.5 billion over the 10 years of this agreement. That’s a small change for Apple…and Amazon…and Google.
Today’s announcement heralds the beginning of the end of the traditional way for US sports to be broadcast. When off-market live sports aren’t the only ones to be found on cable, wire-cutting will accelerate, much to the chagrin of regional sports networks — and even ESPN.